Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Her Mother's Daughter A Memoir by Linda Carroll

I admit it. I wouldn't have picked up this book if I hadn't read the subtitle. The complete title of the book, "Her Mother's Daughter: A Memoir of the Mother I Never Knew and of My Daughter, Courtney Love" is the reason why I read this book.

It's not that I'm a diehard of rocker Courtney Love. Sure, in the early 1990's I bought the album by her alternative rock band, Hole, and I liked a lot of the songs (most notably the hauntingly beautiful "Doll Parts"). But Love's antics turned me off to her after a while. When her famous husband Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, she understandably went off the deep end a bit and I worried about her young daughter, Frances Bean. After some drug rehab stints Love actually cleaned up her act for a while and got some good reviews for some movies she was in. The she went back to her old ways for a while. Back and forth, back and forth. And then Courtney Love kind of fizzled out, in my book anyway.

Bit I have to admit when I saw the memoir, written but her mother Linda Carroll, I was more than a little curious. I wondered what kind of upbringing Love had, and what her mother was like.

"Her Mother's Daughter" is the story of Linda Carroll's life, not her daughter Courtney's. Now I always like a good memoir. I read memoirs about famous people and not-so-famous people and I always enjoy them, learning about other people's lives and what makes people tick.

Like her famous daughter, Linda Carroll had a difficult life. She was adopted and her adoptive mother was tough on her. The book details Linda's Catholic upbringing and her struggles with her faith. Married three times before the age of thirty, Linda had her struggles with the men in her life as well.

The birth of her first baby, Courtney, promised to change her life. But from the beginning, Linda Carroll knew that her daughter was different. Advanced in many ways and bewildering in others, Carroll details the struggles she had raising her very difficult and unusual daughter. By the time Love grows up and calls to tell her mother that she is expecting a baby with rocker husband Kurt Cobain, their relationship is strained at best.

Carroll also details other tragic events in her life, such as the sudden death of her infant son Elki Michael in 1974. After reading about the sadness in Carroll's life, I determined that penning her memoir must have been therapeutic for her, although very painful as well.

Out of all of her children (she is a mother of five), Carroll obviously writes the most about her daughter Courtney Love. Fans of Love will probably flock to buy this book, but this book is not really a gossipy tell-all memoir. Carroll is very careful about the details that she reveals about her relationship with her daughter, but it is obvious that the two have a tumultuous relationship. I don't think that this book will help to repair their relationship and in fact I believe they are currently estranged, which is often what happens when a family member of a famous person pens their memoir.

The most telling part of the book, in my opinion, is Carroll's search for her biological mother, which she puts into full gear right after she learns that daughter Courtney is pregnant.

When Carroll finally does find her biological mother, she is stunned to find that her mother is also someone famous: the Newberry award winning writer, Paula Fox. Carroll details the reunion with amazing clarity and while it is apparent that this event is very instrumental in helping Carroll to begin to find herself and to find peace and stability in her life, it also is not what she expected: finding her birth mother did not make her whole. She still had some work to do-- and she does it. After a medical emergency involving her birth mother Paula, Carroll reflects on her life some more.

The book includes some family photos and other standard memoir fare and all in all it is a breezy read. I like Carroll's lyrical writing style and would recommend this book for anyone who likes to read an interesting memoir.

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