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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review and ARC Giveaway: Life is Not a Stage by Florence Henderson

I very much enjoyed this memoir!

by Florence Henderson
    Life Is Not a Stage: From Broadway Baby to a Lovely Lady and Beyond
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Center Street (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599953889
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599953885
Genre: Memoir
My Rating: 4.25
Product Description:
For millions of people around the world, Carol Brady is synonymous with motherhood, but growing up as the youngest of ten children in rural Indiana in the aftermath of the Great Depression, Florence Henderson lived a life quite different from that of the quintessential TV mom she later played on television.

Florence's father was a dirt-poor tobacco tenant farmer who was nearly fifty years old when he married Florence's twenty-five-year-old mother, and was nearly seventy when Florence was born. Florence's childhood was full of deprivation and abandonment. Her father was an alcoholic at a time when there was no rehab or help for the disease. Their home rarely had electricity or running water. When she was twelve, Florence's mother left the family to work in Cleveland and never returned.

Florence opens up about her childhood, as well as the challenges she's faced as an adult, including stage fright, postpartum depression, her extramarital affairs, divorce, her hearing loss, and heart problems. She writes with honesty and wisdom of how her faith and ability to survive has brought her through rough times to a life of profound joy and purpose.
Review:  This is a strong, uplifting memoir from a “Lovely Lady.” I don’t read lots of memoirs but I like to pick a couple a year. I am so glad I picked up this one.

I remember Ms. Henderson from the TV series, The Brady Bunch. I had no idea of the earlier successes she had on stage and Broadway in Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, South Pacific and many other productions. Florence was very active, before and after The Brady Bunch, in variety TV shows, commercials, Las Vegas acts and game shows like The Hollywood Squares (which I do remember).

This book reveals an overview into Florence’s life and career.  More importantly it tells how she pushed through her difficult childhood, strove as a professional to fulfill “the show must go on” motto, married and managed to raise four children while juggling her successful career, and finally, in her mature adult life, with the help of hypnotherapy, grew to understand her emotional struggles. The book gives a glimpse of the change of moral attitudes from the restrictive 1930s through the rebellious ‘60s and then the more liberating ‘70s and ‘80s.

As the blurb notes, Florence shares details of many emotional and physical struggles. You might expect the stage fright, but I was surprised to learn of the postpartum depression and the loss of hearing among other issues revealed.  Florence’s childhood and early years were carried by her mother’s phrase “It will never be noticed on a galloping horse.”  She learned not to address any real problems but to just keeping pushing through. That gave her determination but also brought her to the point of exhaustion physically and emotionally.

This is a quick, easy flowing and nostalgic read. The memoir is direct, open and honest. Although she mentions other actors, directors and other well known figures of the eras, this is not a “tell all” type of expose.  It is focused on Florence’s experiences and how even fleeting contact with some people, even strangers, may have helped her see beyond herself.

Florence doesn’t hide the unpleasant things in her life but doesn’t dwell on them in a negative fashion either.  There are a few industry secrets and many tidbits of wisdom laced throughout the book.  Florence presents a message that there is a real life that goes on behind the stage persona and it is a certain positive spirit and strength of faith that carried her through with grace. The memoir is infused with her determination, professionalism, sense of humor and her singular effervescence.  If you like memoirs, or if you would like a fairly gentle nostalgic glimpse of stage and TV in these pivotal years, I am confident you would enjoy this book.
Thank you to Hachette Center Street for this book to review.

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* This contest is only open to residents of US and Canada.
* This contest will close 10 PM (Central) on October 7, 2011. (This month's book giveaways will all end on the 30th except for Friday Picks, SBB or other special posts.)
The winner will be randomly selected from all entries.
Winners will have 72 hours to respond by email or the winners form linked in the announcement.

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