Actors in general are brave souls. If it were easy to deliver a performance – an interpretation of a script or character – in front of a camera or on stage for an audience to critique, then more people would do it. It takes more than bravery to embrace the art of the memoir. Opening yourself and your perspective to the world takes grit and resolve. In her memoir, In Pieces, Sally Field demonstrates that she not only has bravery from being an actor, but the grit to be a true memoirist.
In Pieces is different from most Hollywood memoirs. The only “juicy” stories are the ones that directly relate to Field and only the necessary bits are shared from behind-the-scenes of her TV and film experiences. Instead, Field takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery. She tries to objectively analyze her family, romantic relationships, and career to gain a deeper understanding of who she is and how she has evolved over the years.
The book begins with an in-depth look at her family. Field sets the stage by diving into her family history to explain her prudish grandmother, absent father, and (at times) neglectful mother, actress Margaret Morlan. This cast of characters and their actions help introduce her stepfather, Jacques O’Mahoney (Jocko). With the introduction of Jocko, Field becomes a victim of child sexual and mental abuse that follows her for her entire life. It impacts her relationship with her mother and causes the shyness and insecurities that Field had in many of her romantic relationships.
In fact, the only time that Field becomes alive is when she is acting. There is a deep desire to not only be liked by her peers and audiences, but to thrive and succeed. Her mother and stepfather were actors with short lived careers and suffered from it. With a tenacity that didn’t always extend to other aspects of her life except in short bursts, Field fought for roles that challenged her and ripped her away from the typecasting she suffered after “Gidget” and “The Flying Nun.” These moments of the book – the moments where Field stand up for herself – are the most inspiring and fulfilling moments of the book.
There are some people who will focus on the salacious details and famous people mentioned in the book. The numerous accounts of sexual abuse, an abortion at 17, and her relationship with Burt Reynolds are items that will be sure to gain media exposure. In this political climate, some of Field’s remarks about her aggressors can come across as though she is making excuses for their bad behavior, and it can be difficult to accept that as her point of view. The writing is raw and sometimes disjointed, but readers can feel that journey as Field tries to organize her thoughts and form opinions about her life.
In Pieces is about more than scandal and Hollywood. It is about a woman’s journey to independence and repairing a relationship between mother and daughter. Readers will get a deeper understanding of where the iconic Sally Field performances come from and will appreciate her as not only an actor, but as a person.
- "Brynn Devereaux is a freelance writer for Baltimore OUTloud. As an arts writer, she enjoys exploring the local arts scene and bringing attention to new books and authors. Brynn is a Scranton expat and a Towson University graduate."