Sure to be marketed as an exposé on raising Courtney Love, the walking car crash of our time, Carroll’s is an unassuming and reflective coming-of-age memoir.
Carroll’s adoptive parents provided her creature comforts but no real tenderness. Mom Louella was one of those cold and sometimes cruel wealthy women of countless melodramas; though always perfectly appointed, her outbursts revealed a severely damaged core (Carroll’s biological mother, she would later learn, is the memoirist Paula Fox). Unlike Louella, father “Jack” was warm and (overly) affectionate — his constant ogling of his daughter crossed over into fondling more than once. Carroll’s childhood and teen years mimic those of countless rebellious, too-smart-for-their-own-good youths; she gets kicked out of several Catholic schools, dates a James Dean greaser and just after high-school graduation, falls in with a crowd of hedonistic, pseudo-intellectual San Francisco bohemians. One of these, eccentric wannabe professor Frank, fathers Carroll’s first child, known to the subsequent generation as rock star Courtney Love, just after Carroll’s 18th birthday. A string of marriages and children follow — three and five, respectively. As Carroll finally confronts her psychological demons and navigates a path toward happiness, she watches her eldest (only sometimes estranged) daughter, the violent and untameable Courtney, live out her dramatic downward spiral in the public eye. Carroll has a strength for capturing her various environments — from the Haight-Ashbury beatnik scene of the late ’60s, to her New Age, post-hippie life in New Zealand in the ’70s. But the plodding chronology of “then-this-happened” has a dulling effect.
A surprisingly evocative account that, perhaps as a result of its author’s current career as a therapist, at times veers dangerously close to self-help territory.