Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Review: Second Generation Sterling

If you're looking for a light, fun summer read, this isn't it.

Tisha Sterling, daughter of actors Ann Sothern and Robert Sterling, started life with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. Growing up a beautiful young woman in the 1960s, she had a promising career as an actress. Her memoir, Why I Failed Charm School: My Mother, Actress Ann Sothern, and Our Lives Together (Bookstand Publishing), tells a troubling story of a life that proved anything but carefree and joyful.

The picture Tisha paints of her mother is not particularly flattering. But neither does it seem vindictive. Tisha writes, "Mother always seemed deeply perplexed that I was not a carbon copy of her, and [wondered] why I wasn't living up to her expectations." Indeed, both women come across as real, flawed human beings. By her daughter's account, Miss Sothern had an eating disorder that she was unable to curb, as well as an unwillingness to live within her means as she aged. For her part, Tisha, something of a Sixties wild child, had addiction issues that, as she acknowledges, strained the patience and understanding of those who loved her. Of the well-known people of whom Miss Sterling writes, it's probably her stepmother Anne Jeffreys who comes off best, though her part in the story is minor. It's certainly not Tisha's dad, Sterling, who is depicted as largely distant and uncommunicative. All in all, readers who have found themselves caught on either side of a parent-child contretemps may find this more interesting than those who want to know about Tisha's career, or those of her famous parents, about which relatively little is said.

Sterling's book would have benefited from tighter editing; her style is a bit rough in places. But the story itself, like the author's candor, is compelling. It's one that she has earned her right to tell.

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