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Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A Memoir

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"The Glass Castle" meets "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in this dazzlingly honest and provocative family memoir by former child actress and current Fox Business Network anchor Melissa Francis. When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jas "The Glass Castle" meets "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in this dazzlingly honest and provocative family memoir by former child actress and current Fox Business Network anchor Melissa Francis. When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) by the Ingalls family on the world's most famous primetime soap opera, "Little House on the Prairie." Despite her age, she was already a veteran actress, living a charmed life, moving from one Hollywood set to the next. But behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure, and sometimes grinding cruelty of her stage mother, as fame and a mother's ambition pushed her older sister deeper into the shadows. "Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter" is a fascinating account of life as a child star in the 1980's, and also a startling tale of a family under the care of a highly neurotic, dangerously competitive "tiger mother." But perhaps most importantly, now that Melissa has two sons of her own, it's a meditation on motherhood, and the value of pushing your children: how hard should you push a child to succeed, and at what point does your help turn into harm?


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"The Glass Castle" meets "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in this dazzlingly honest and provocative family memoir by former child actress and current Fox Business Network anchor Melissa Francis. When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jas "The Glass Castle" meets "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in this dazzlingly honest and provocative family memoir by former child actress and current Fox Business Network anchor Melissa Francis. When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) by the Ingalls family on the world's most famous primetime soap opera, "Little House on the Prairie." Despite her age, she was already a veteran actress, living a charmed life, moving from one Hollywood set to the next. But behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure, and sometimes grinding cruelty of her stage mother, as fame and a mother's ambition pushed her older sister deeper into the shadows. "Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter" is a fascinating account of life as a child star in the 1980's, and also a startling tale of a family under the care of a highly neurotic, dangerously competitive "tiger mother." But perhaps most importantly, now that Melissa has two sons of her own, it's a meditation on motherhood, and the value of pushing your children: how hard should you push a child to succeed, and at what point does your help turn into harm?

30 review for Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan Carroll

    I found Francis's descriptions of her life as a child actor and her portrait of her cruel, controlling mother -- a textbook narcissist -- interesting. Unfortunately, Francis herself comes across as a "princess" who shares much of her mother's narcissism. The most gag-worthy section to me is when Francis, now a Harvard student, has to LOWER herself to work in food services to earn money. Not because she needs it for school, please note, -- daddy "somehow" pays for that -- but because her cruel mo I found Francis's descriptions of her life as a child actor and her portrait of her cruel, controlling mother -- a textbook narcissist -- interesting. Unfortunately, Francis herself comes across as a "princess" who shares much of her mother's narcissism. The most gag-worthy section to me is when Francis, now a Harvard student, has to LOWER herself to work in food services to earn money. Not because she needs it for school, please note, -- daddy "somehow" pays for that -- but because her cruel mother is refusing to fully fund her daughter's unpaid internship in DC. Francis goes on and on about the HUMILIATION of having to work in a cafeteria. Which she only does for a couple weeks, until her snobby mother, who has never held a job herself, agrees to support Francis so that she'll stop this "demeaning" form of work. Francis's boyfriend coughs up the rest of the money, natch, because Francis is apparently a person that everyone else is expected to serve. (And Francis is now a FOX News Business reporter? Way to disprove that stereotype.) Francis frames her memoir as sympathetic to her sister, whom she portrays as the real victim of her mother's behavior. But without giving the ending away, it seemed, reading between the lines, as though Francis didn't exactly go out of her way to help her sister. There's lots here about what other people should have done, and no evidence that Francis herself tried to help. Her actions don't indicate that she cares about her sister's misery, except for those moments when the sister wasn't there to "serve" Francis. (The previous reviewer's amazement at Francis complaining about her unemployed sister not flying from California to NYC for a bachelorette party is one of those moments.) So overall, an interesting memoir, particularly for people who like character studies of unusual personalities. But be warned, if you didn't grow up with a silver spoon in your mouth, you may find Francis irritating.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Melissa (Missy) Francis was a child actress, probably best known for being on Little House on the Prairie as an orphan taken in by the Ingalls family after all the Ingalls kids got old and not as cute. Her life, however, was far from Little House. She's not kidding with the title of the book. Her mother was every bit the stereotypical "stage mother." She was only interested in her daughters for what they could do for her. Poor Tiffany, the oldest, wasn't as successful or amenable to their mother Melissa (Missy) Francis was a child actress, probably best known for being on Little House on the Prairie as an orphan taken in by the Ingalls family after all the Ingalls kids got old and not as cute. Her life, however, was far from Little House. She's not kidding with the title of the book. Her mother was every bit the stereotypical "stage mother." She was only interested in her daughters for what they could do for her. Poor Tiffany, the oldest, wasn't as successful or amenable to their mother's wishes, so she was generally just abandoned. Their father was rather hapless in the father department. He was a successful businessman, but seems to have left most of the child-rearing to their mother. It's frightening. Missy was the second child and much stronger than her sister. She manages to fight her way out of her mother's clutches and control, but it's a harrowing story nonetheless. On the whole I found the book rather ordinary in it's presentation, but I was really touched at the end when we see Melissa with her own sons. So I guess it's more of a 3.5 for me. However, if readers are expecting a "tell-all" about Hollywood or Michael Landon, they will be sorely disappointed. This is a soul-searching book by a woman who survived one of the worst mothers on the planet!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mediaman

    The first two-thirds of this book is one of the best autobiographies ever written by a Hollywood child actor, filled with details about her TV work and a crazy mother who does things that are just hard to believe. It's a lot better than the books by the other Little House girls (and I've read them all). But once Melissa gets to high school the book becomes deadly dull, with absolutely nothing interesting happening until the very last few pages (which I won't give away, but skip chapters 13 to 16 The first two-thirds of this book is one of the best autobiographies ever written by a Hollywood child actor, filled with details about her TV work and a crazy mother who does things that are just hard to believe. It's a lot better than the books by the other Little House girls (and I've read them all). But once Melissa gets to high school the book becomes deadly dull, with absolutely nothing interesting happening until the very last few pages (which I won't give away, but skip chapters 13 to 16 and you'll miss nothing important). This family proves that people who live and work in Hollywood are nuts. Melissa's mom is certified crazy and abusive, her dad is ultra passive, and her older sister gets into drugs and alcohol at an early age to get attention. The book is raw in telling stories of how bad other people are but there is little in the way of morality here--the author doesn't condemn or apologize for illegal behavior. But Francis shows surprisingly little insight into herself--she seems like the perfect girl who can't understand why everyone isn't just happy while they make bad choices. Even when her mom steals over a quarter of a million dollars of her childhood acting income from her, Francis just shrugs her shoulders and acts like it's no big deal. She then shares almost no information about her adult career in television. How can she work for NBC, The Today Show, MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, various local stations, CNBC and Fox Business News and not tell any stories about any of them?!? It makes the last third of the book completely misguided to focus totally on her dull college life and her sister's issues. I admire the author for how well she turned out, but she has her own problems that pop up near the end. She constantly tells her oldest son that he's the "smartest boy in the world" then wonders why he doesn't want to answer her quiz questions, fearing he won't get them right. She ends up doing some of the same subtle manipulation that her mother did to her.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This is the most annoying memoir ever. Not only Melissa the most pretentious and annoying protagonist (she says people cleaning dorms are "poor planners" and she could never take a job so beneath her... Are you serious?!) she also is so goddamn selfish it's like she can't talk about anything that doesn't benefit her. How does she try to solve her parents and sister fighting? LETS TALK ABOUT HOW AMAZING I AM AT SCHOOL!!! The whole family, not just their mother, is insufferable and I had to abandon This is the most annoying memoir ever. Not only Melissa the most pretentious and annoying protagonist (she says people cleaning dorms are "poor planners" and she could never take a job so beneath her... Are you serious?!) she also is so goddamn selfish it's like she can't talk about anything that doesn't benefit her. How does she try to solve her parents and sister fighting? LETS TALK ABOUT HOW AMAZING I AM AT SCHOOL!!! The whole family, not just their mother, is insufferable and I had to abandon this book not only from Melissa's abominable personality and seeing herself as a saint, but the dad who is a penny pinching coward, the mom who is a physical and emotional abuser... The only one who I feel sympathy for is Tiffany, her poor sister!

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    "stage mother" or "Tiger Mom" per one of the blurbs is a misnomer. Her mother was apparently crazy and abusive, and they've now been estranged for over a decade after the mother stole large amounts of money from her husband and her daughter (author, who had earned a bundle as a child actor, e.g. on Little House on the Prairie). I don't think she actually says it explicitly, but it sounds as though her sister, who had bipolar disorder, killed herself, so there is lots of pain here. The recap is so "stage mother" or "Tiger Mom" per one of the blurbs is a misnomer. Her mother was apparently crazy and abusive, and they've now been estranged for over a decade after the mother stole large amounts of money from her husband and her daughter (author, who had earned a bundle as a child actor, e.g. on Little House on the Prairie). I don't think she actually says it explicitly, but it sounds as though her sister, who had bipolar disorder, killed herself, so there is lots of pain here. The recap is somewhat disconcerting, though, in that (a) she seldom makes a general or abstract point, and it feels like eavesdropping to hear one side of a "my husband's family is wonderful, but my family is nuts!" data dump, and (b) the bill of particulars is unorganized and unprioritized -- mom stole all the money earmarked to my college education and earned from my acting appears with about the same emphasis as mom guilt-tripped me that night I came home later than I said I would when I was 16, or mom being a pain about some aspect of daughter's wedding planning. At college and thereafter author comes off as a bit of a snob. Like "schadenfreude" for feeling good about a rival's misfortune, I think we need a word for the complex emotion associated with "I feel great sympathy for the unfair things that happened to you in life but nevertheless don't think I'd like you if we met". Awkward experience in memoir reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Denise Huntington

    I read as much of this book as I could stand. I gave up about a third of the way through. Unlike most memoirs which are written with compassion, humor, and/or sadness, this book seemed filled with Missy Francis's ramblings about her prodigious talents and her advantages and opportunties and her grumblings about her unbearable childhood with a controlling stage mother, an emotionally absent father, and an introverted, depressed older sister. Melissa's account of her young life seems very self-cen I read as much of this book as I could stand. I gave up about a third of the way through. Unlike most memoirs which are written with compassion, humor, and/or sadness, this book seemed filled with Missy Francis's ramblings about her prodigious talents and her advantages and opportunties and her grumblings about her unbearable childhood with a controlling stage mother, an emotionally absent father, and an introverted, depressed older sister. Melissa's account of her young life seems very self-centered and narcissistic. I did not get very far into the book, but I found nothing redeeming about Melissa's account of her life as a child actor. I suppose I am tired of child star's "Mommy Dearest" books. I read "Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter" because it got really good reviews on Goodreads. But I'm not sure what the hype is all about. The book is neither engaging nor well written. It did not hold my interest in the least even though memoirs and biographies are my favorite genre. In fact, I forced myself to read much more than initially inclined just to give it a chance. I'm sure it will appeal to some readers who are fascinated with celebrity, but I cannot give it more than 2 or 2.5 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    I really sympathized for the author when she was young. Her mom seemed to be a self-serving stage mom who lived through her two acting daughters. I enjoyed reading about Melissa Francis' experiences on the set of Little House on the Prairie. After the writer hit her teenage years, I began to wonder if her mother was really as big a villain as she was portrayed. Melissa began to seem whiny and spoiled as the book went on. I ended up not liking her very much. I really sympathized for the author when she was young. Her mom seemed to be a self-serving stage mom who lived through her two acting daughters. I enjoyed reading about Melissa Francis' experiences on the set of Little House on the Prairie. After the writer hit her teenage years, I began to wonder if her mother was really as big a villain as she was portrayed. Melissa began to seem whiny and spoiled as the book went on. I ended up not liking her very much.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    If you were on Little House and write a memoir I am going to read it. I loved that sappy, corny show. To this day I will drop everything to watch an episode. My favorite sub job is the teacher who leaves me an episode to show the kids every time I work for her. The only thing better than watching an episode is seeing how the kids of today react to it. They love it too! Previously I have read Melisa Gilbert's Prairie Tale (Pa was an alcoholic womanizer!) and Alison Arngrims Confessions of a Prairi If you were on Little House and write a memoir I am going to read it. I loved that sappy, corny show. To this day I will drop everything to watch an episode. My favorite sub job is the teacher who leaves me an episode to show the kids every time I work for her. The only thing better than watching an episode is seeing how the kids of today react to it. They love it too! Previously I have read Melisa Gilbert's Prairie Tale (Pa was an alcoholic womanizer!) and Alison Arngrims Confessions of a Prairie Bitch (Percival was gay! well no duh). Actually the best bit from her book was her recount of the time she and Mrs. Olsen went to opens a supermarket in costume and the crowd turned on them because they couldn't understand that they only played the characters on TV, they weren't really Nellie and Mrs. Olsen. The only book I haven't read is Melissa Sue Anderson's because both Laura and Nellie say she was the real bitch. Nellie calling Mary obnoxious, how ironic. Anyhow I remember the character of Cassandra quite well. She was supposed to be a "new Laura", because the old one had grown up. Sadly the show only lasted two seasons with her on it so the Little House portion of the book is only a few pages. What the book is mostly about is Melissa Francis whining about her mother's treatment of her. Her mother did sound pretty awful but not more so than a lot of others I know personally. Although her manner was not always to be desired she managed to get her on the top rated TV show of maybe all time with years and years of residual checks. Not only that, the mother oversaw her schooling and Melissa graduated from Harvard. Not too shabby. I know Melissa blames her mother for what happened to her sister but people make their own choices in life. We are only presented with one side of the story and although I am not doubting Melissa's account I am sure you would hear something completely different from the mother. As Dr. Phil says their is no reality, only your perception of it. I would love to see Dr. Phil sit down with Melissa and her mother and try to patch that up, that would be so awesome and impossible. Somehow the dad manages to skip free from any blame about the way Melissa was raised. I guess there is a lesson to be learned here but after reading this account and Tiger mom's I am still unsure how hard you are supposed to push your children so that they don't give up at the slightest obstacle but persevere on to success. You want to be loving and supportive but you can't be a pushover either. I guess I'll know I went to far if my daughter writes her memoir about me. Hopefully she'll have graduated Harvard too by then.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim N

    What’s most interesting to me about this memoir is that it’s clear the author shares many of her mother’s narcissistic traits; that she thrived on her success as a child even as she complains about the demanding, controlling, abusive environment she and her sister, Tiffany, endured. She blames her mother for everything, whilst absolving her father and ultimately herself of any contribution or responsibility. It’s really Tiffany’s story that’s sad, but Francis seems able to view events only in li What’s most interesting to me about this memoir is that it’s clear the author shares many of her mother’s narcissistic traits; that she thrived on her success as a child even as she complains about the demanding, controlling, abusive environment she and her sister, Tiffany, endured. She blames her mother for everything, whilst absolving her father and ultimately herself of any contribution or responsibility. It’s really Tiffany’s story that’s sad, but Francis seems able to view events only in light of how they affected her. Something that really irritated me: She describes her disbelief and disappointment when her parents refuse to pay for a Stanford summer session costing $10,000 dollars. And later at Harvard, she feels demeaned by having to lower herself to work in the cafeteria for money to support an unpaid internship in Washington D.C. (Note that her parents were paying her college tuition.) So, yeah, she came off as very unsympathetic and I had had more than enough of her by the end of the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jacquie

    I downloaded this book from the library and read it very quickly. It was ok but to my surprise has stayed with me as I am disturbed by it. The mother was/is a classic narcissist and yet nowhere is this mentioned. Is it because in Hollywood the disorder is so prevalent that it becomes "invisible" or more disturbing is it because Melissa herself is also one. For Melissa her narcissistic needs seems to be met (adoring husband, nationwide audience) -- except by her exiled mother and so perhaps the mor I downloaded this book from the library and read it very quickly. It was ok but to my surprise has stayed with me as I am disturbed by it. The mother was/is a classic narcissist and yet nowhere is this mentioned. Is it because in Hollywood the disorder is so prevalent that it becomes "invisible" or more disturbing is it because Melissa herself is also one. For Melissa her narcissistic needs seems to be met (adoring husband, nationwide audience) -- except by her exiled mother and so perhaps the more negative results of it are not apparent. It was her telling her son that he was the "smartest boy in the world" that triggered this thought for me. I'm all for developing self esteem and for making a child feel special, and I realize tone of voice etc would make a huge difference to how this comes across but I'm pretty sure he's not the smartest boy in the world and that you really don't need to be that in order to answer whatever test he was given. Does she need to believe that her son is the smartest boy in the world perhaps? And I'm probably nit picking. But as stated earlier I'm surprised how much I have been thinking of a book that I read so quickly and deleted immediately!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Florence

    Melissa Francis, who became famous playing an orphan on the TV show "Little House on the Prairie" writes of her mother's domination of her childhood. The picture she paints is not nuanced. Her mother was selfish, domineering, dishonest, greedy, and at times, violent. There is nothing here but bitterness. Apparently, there were no loving moments and no regrets that she couldn't resolve her differences with her mother once she became an adult. That strains credibility. On the positive side, it is Melissa Francis, who became famous playing an orphan on the TV show "Little House on the Prairie" writes of her mother's domination of her childhood. The picture she paints is not nuanced. Her mother was selfish, domineering, dishonest, greedy, and at times, violent. There is nothing here but bitterness. Apparently, there were no loving moments and no regrets that she couldn't resolve her differences with her mother once she became an adult. That strains credibility. On the positive side, it is amazing that Melissa could maintain her excellent grades (and was eventually admitted to Harvard) while working as an actress and dealing with difficult family issues. Note: anyone who receives a red BMW gift convertable while still in high school has led a rather charmed life. Could Ms. Francis be a bit overindulged?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emilie

    While this book was engaging and interesting it was also unrealistic in its viewpoint. We all sometimes see ourselves as the only sane character in our own lives, but the author takes this to an extreme, never admitting personal flaws or faults, nor mistakes. She is always the voice of reason. Always grounded. And her childhood problems are always the fault of others. I sympathized since I saw mirrors of my own childhood in her story, but it's hard to believe that her mother was always this self While this book was engaging and interesting it was also unrealistic in its viewpoint. We all sometimes see ourselves as the only sane character in our own lives, but the author takes this to an extreme, never admitting personal flaws or faults, nor mistakes. She is always the voice of reason. Always grounded. And her childhood problems are always the fault of others. I sympathized since I saw mirrors of my own childhood in her story, but it's hard to believe that her mother was always this selfish, her father always this disengaged and her sister always this troubled. I would have liked more insight into her father's viewpoint. If her account of their life is faithful there is much left unexplored and unsaid as to her father's reasons for his behavior. A captivating read, but one that doesn't ring entirely true and certainly not thoroughly explored.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy Cohen

    The proofreader of this book should be put to shame! I found a number of proofreaders' mistakes throughout, such as missed words and missing letters in words. Also, it is obvious that a ghost writer helped to embellish this story. There are certain stories and pages of dialogue that I find hard to believe that Melissa remembers verbatim unless she kept a diary during the time and wrote down every word that was spoken during conversations. As for the content ... I wanted to like it, but I couldn't The proofreader of this book should be put to shame! I found a number of proofreaders' mistakes throughout, such as missed words and missing letters in words. Also, it is obvious that a ghost writer helped to embellish this story. There are certain stories and pages of dialogue that I find hard to believe that Melissa remembers verbatim unless she kept a diary during the time and wrote down every word that was spoken during conversations. As for the content ... I wanted to like it, but I couldn't feel the sympathy for the author that she wanted to evoke from readers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I'm surprised this has received good reviews... I couldn't stand her self importance and whining! I think she needed to grow up some more and get some perspective on her childhood before writing this from such an entitled child's view. It's hard to evoke sympathy when she's ordering her BMW at 16 and making her parents seem impossible because they would prefer her to stay closer to home for college. Give me a break! I fear this book was just an attention getter scheme by someone who has to have I'm surprised this has received good reviews... I couldn't stand her self importance and whining! I think she needed to grow up some more and get some perspective on her childhood before writing this from such an entitled child's view. It's hard to evoke sympathy when she's ordering her BMW at 16 and making her parents seem impossible because they would prefer her to stay closer to home for college. Give me a break! I fear this book was just an attention getter scheme by someone who has to have it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    The writing in this book really bugged me, it's far too detailed for a child to have remembered and some of the situations seem so outlandish I can't help wondering what might be true and what might be an establishment. I also felt like I was getting in the middle of a private family fight and that I shouldn't be there. I normally enjoy memoirs but this one coupled with a terrible narrator for the audiobook version just wasn't for me. The writing in this book really bugged me, it's far too detailed for a child to have remembered and some of the situations seem so outlandish I can't help wondering what might be true and what might be an establishment. I also felt like I was getting in the middle of a private family fight and that I shouldn't be there. I normally enjoy memoirs but this one coupled with a terrible narrator for the audiobook version just wasn't for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shari Larsen

    Melissa Francis was a child actress who started when she was just baby in a commercial for Johnson & Johnson, but she is best known for her role as Casandra Cooper Ingalls on the beloved TV series Little House on the Prairie. She loved acting, and on the surface, appeared to live a charmed life, but behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure, greed and often cruelty by her stage mother. As Melissa became more successful, her older sister Tiffany was neglected and ignored by Melissa Francis was a child actress who started when she was just baby in a commercial for Johnson & Johnson, but she is best known for her role as Casandra Cooper Ingalls on the beloved TV series Little House on the Prairie. She loved acting, and on the surface, appeared to live a charmed life, but behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure, greed and often cruelty by her stage mother. As Melissa became more successful, her older sister Tiffany was neglected and ignored by her mother. While the mother eventually wears down both her daughters, Melissa is a survivor; she does what she has to do to get through Harvard, and eventually finds her calling in reporting the news; she is now an anchor on the Fox News network. Tiffany was not so lucky, she doesn't have the same coping and survival skills, and it ultimately leads to tragedy. This was a very interesting story on the pressures faced by children in show business. As a fan of "Little House", I wish there were more stories about what it was like to for her to be on the show, but then, she was only 8 years old at the time, and was only on the show for two years, so she is not going to have the same kind of memories of someone who spent years on the series, such as Melissa Gilbert, so if you are only reading this book for a "behind the scenes" look at the show, you will be disappointed. If you want to read more about the TV series, I suggest Ms.Gilbert's memoir "Prairie Tale". I think Ms. Francis did a great job telling her story, with honesty but without self pity, and she is a great example that children from dysfunctional families can succeed and have happy adult lives despite not having had the best parenting.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gina Panettieri

    This memoir really demonstrated the toxic impact that a parent can have on children, particularly when the other parent 'checks out' to avoid becoming the target of the abuse himself and doesn't intervene when there's obvious mental health issues. Most readers will remember Melissa Francis from her Little House days, though some may only have encountered her more recently as a new reporter. She's one of the more successful stories of children actors who found new roles for themselves in their ad This memoir really demonstrated the toxic impact that a parent can have on children, particularly when the other parent 'checks out' to avoid becoming the target of the abuse himself and doesn't intervene when there's obvious mental health issues. Most readers will remember Melissa Francis from her Little House days, though some may only have encountered her more recently as a new reporter. She's one of the more successful stories of children actors who found new roles for themselves in their adult lives. But her older sister seemed to both catch the full glare of their mother's constant harsh criticism and control, and found herself ill-equipped to handle it. It is a harrowing story to read. It is far from a "Hollywood tell-all", though there are a few behind the scenes revelations about Melissa's costars. It is a personal memoir of survival against all odds. I am fortunate to work with other former child actors who had much more normal upbringings, so this should in no way be considered a reflection on what is 'normal' in the life of a child actor. But this story is definitely a cry to everyone who touches the lives of children to be alert, be vigilant, intervene where things look out of control, don't be bullied into silence by a domineering or potentially violent adult and leave a child suffering unprotected.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I'm not sure I understand why someone would want the world to know how messed up their home life was growing up, but it seems to be a trend. Who knows, maybe books like these can help others in some way but they are not for me. I really liked the Cassandra character on Little House and saw this book in the new book section at the library. I figured it would be a downer but I was wondering what had happened with the actress who played Cassandra so I picked it up anyway. What a depressing journey I'm not sure I understand why someone would want the world to know how messed up their home life was growing up, but it seems to be a trend. Who knows, maybe books like these can help others in some way but they are not for me. I really liked the Cassandra character on Little House and saw this book in the new book section at the library. I figured it would be a downer but I was wondering what had happened with the actress who played Cassandra so I picked it up anyway. What a depressing journey this book was. I feel bad for Melissa and all she has been through, but I really didn't need to know every detail about her screwed up stage mother's life. The anecdotes related to Little House and some of Melissa's other jobs were very interesting. Best wishes to Melissa and her family, may they continue to live a loving life together, free from the drama that plagued Melissa's younger years.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jim D

    What a powerful book. I had just read her "Lessons from the Prarie," and really enjoyed her observations about the show and her career as an economist and news personality. She alluded to issues in her childhood with her mother so i picked up this book. Wow. What a difficult book this must have been to write. Her story is not a pretty one, although she survived. I cannot imagine what her life must have been like or the scars she still has from her mother. Melissa is a superb news personality and What a powerful book. I had just read her "Lessons from the Prarie," and really enjoyed her observations about the show and her career as an economist and news personality. She alluded to issues in her childhood with her mother so i picked up this book. Wow. What a difficult book this must have been to write. Her story is not a pretty one, although she survived. I cannot imagine what her life must have been like or the scars she still has from her mother. Melissa is a superb news personality and analyst, and reading this book makes her even more impressive as a daughter, sister mother and woman.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Palumbo Davies

    While Melissa's mother did suck, I'm not sure if she was crazy enough to justify a book. I liked the peeks at Hollywood - auditioning, making commercials, the Little House stories. And what happened to Melissa's sister was truly sad. But the father, who didn't intervene when his wife was being cruel to their daughters, gets off with no blame. While Melissa's mother did suck, I'm not sure if she was crazy enough to justify a book. I liked the peeks at Hollywood - auditioning, making commercials, the Little House stories. And what happened to Melissa's sister was truly sad. But the father, who didn't intervene when his wife was being cruel to their daughters, gets off with no blame.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christina McLain

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was very interesting but also more than a tad annoying. Melissa Francis was a very successful child actress back in the 80's and even had a major role on the enormously popular tv show Little House on the Prairie for two seasons. She had been acting in commercials since she was a baby and later segued into a degree at Harvard and a career in journalism for the Fox network. No, she was not assaulted by its predatory boss Roger Ailes and probably never would have been, for she is as toug This book was very interesting but also more than a tad annoying. Melissa Francis was a very successful child actress back in the 80's and even had a major role on the enormously popular tv show Little House on the Prairie for two seasons. She had been acting in commercials since she was a baby and later segued into a degree at Harvard and a career in journalism for the Fox network. No, she was not assaulted by its predatory boss Roger Ailes and probably never would have been, for she is as tough as old boots, that girl. And she had to be, for she grew up with a narcissistic and often cruel and aggressive mother who plotted every move of her childhood career, while arranging for a neighbour's dog to be killed on ome occasion and often throwing her daughters literally out of the family car if they angered her. Fortunately, Melissa was talented and enjoyed her acting career. Sadly, her old sister was not as spirited or successful as Melissa and was ignored or bullied by their mother until she ultimately ended up dying ftom liver disease and addiction issues at thirty. Throughout all this the author maintains a fairly cheerful front but when she discovered that her mother, in the process of divorcing her longsuffering passive father, had taken all the money she and her Dad had earned (her mother never worked), she finally told her Mum off and never heard from her again. This was an interesting and often painful story of emotional abuse and manipulation, but the annoying subtext was distracting. Ms. Francis, it appears, has a lot of her mother's character in her as she consistently criticizes those who cannot complete the superhuman tasks she professes to have performed and shows little sympathy for the downtrodden and those not as strong as she. No doubt she belongs at Fox, but I found her superior attitude took away from the story she was trying to tell.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    This was less of a memoir and more of a revenge book, getting back at mother for every mean thing she ever did to her kid. Melissa Francis is best known for playing Cassandra in the later years of Little House on the Prairie. (I have to admit I wasn't a big fan of Little House and I'm not sure I ever watched any episodes with Cassandra in them.) But fans of the show who are looking for a tell-all about the show will be disappointed; the Little House years only take up a few pages of this book. Mo This was less of a memoir and more of a revenge book, getting back at mother for every mean thing she ever did to her kid. Melissa Francis is best known for playing Cassandra in the later years of Little House on the Prairie. (I have to admit I wasn't a big fan of Little House and I'm not sure I ever watched any episodes with Cassandra in them.) But fans of the show who are looking for a tell-all about the show will be disappointed; the Little House years only take up a few pages of this book. Most of the book is the kind of parent-blaming drama much more common in baby boomer memoirs. Melissa's mother (by Melissa's account) was an absolute monster. She never, ever said a kind word. She never did anything nice. She didn't love either of her daughters--at all. Melissa's whole life has been about trying to please this cold-hearted woman. Yet...they seemed to have a fairly decent relationship. The whole family would regularly do things together, mom would take the girls shopping and horseback riding, and they operated as a cohesive unit ("monster mom" stories aside). I suspect Melissa isn't telling us the whole story. I think she's taken all the worst parts of her mother's life, the actions that her mother is probably most ashamed of and most wishes she could do over, and published these stories in a book without giving any of the good stories to balance things out. If someone did the same thing with my life, just gathering the tales where I behaved abominably, I would come across looking like a monster also. I think most of us would. And Melissa, on the other hand, comes across as the spoiled little rich girl who doesn't think she should be expected to buy a car with her own money and who throws a fit when her sister won't fly to New York from California for her bridal shower. The book was very readable and interesting in many ways. I just felt really, really bad for Melissa's mom who wasn't given a fair chance to answer these very public allegations.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary BG

    I like Melissa Francis on Fox Business channel and am interested in her story. She grew up in unusual circumstances as a child actor and as a young girl had to deal with a psycho mother and unsupportive father. But this narrative lacks detail that would have made the story much more interesting. There is a lot of contrived sounding dialogue used to tell it (which a young child would not remember word for word) and much space is devoted to the trivial, including trips to the store and partying wi I like Melissa Francis on Fox Business channel and am interested in her story. She grew up in unusual circumstances as a child actor and as a young girl had to deal with a psycho mother and unsupportive father. But this narrative lacks detail that would have made the story much more interesting. There is a lot of contrived sounding dialogue used to tell it (which a young child would not remember word for word) and much space is devoted to the trivial, including trips to the store and partying with friends that is insignificant. Melissa was always a straight A student who graduated from Harvard, but nothing much is said about how she really achieved this despite her tumultuous home life. Apparently, homework and intense studying are not paramount in her recollections since it's rarely mentioned. She and her parents are said to have strained finances most of the time yet she attended an ivy league college the entire four years, drove expensive cars, and wore nice clothes. Did her mother give her more money than is implied? Later, she depends on a succession of low paying news jobs; however, her husband had a good job but she still describes financial struggles while living in upper middle class circumstances in the most expensive cities. Since she's an economics and financial wiz I'd expect her to explain this more. The vast differences between her and her sister's behaviors is interesting and illustrative of the divide between one's basic personality and external influences. She never really says specifically what her sister actually died of at such a young age so it must be assumed her previous drug and alcohol abuse were the related causes. I appreciated Melissa's honest description of her wedding which is probably more typical than atypical of pressurized family events. There are no pictures of her parents and only a couple of her sister, which is odd since this is mostly about them. I wonder why Melissa evidently never got updates about her mother from her Aunt Marilyn over ten plus years.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Melissa Francis’ childhood was one that many of her classmates envied: splitting her time between school and television sets, Francis worked alongside some of the most talented celebrities and child actors to earn a paycheck from a very young age. Though her success alienated her friends and other family members, it only made her mother, a woman obsessed with fame and fortune, love her more. Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter tells the story of Melissa’s complicated relationship with fame and he Melissa Francis’ childhood was one that many of her classmates envied: splitting her time between school and television sets, Francis worked alongside some of the most talented celebrities and child actors to earn a paycheck from a very young age. Though her success alienated her friends and other family members, it only made her mother, a woman obsessed with fame and fortune, love her more. Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter tells the story of Melissa’s complicated relationship with fame and her mother, a woman who hoarded her daughter’s paychecks, was emotionally and physically abusive to her children, spent the family’s fortune, and insisted on complete control over everyone and everything in her household, leading to catastrophic results. This book was an addictive mix of a behind-the-scenes entertainment story, psychological thriller, and powerful memoir. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Though it may have been a bit difficult to relate to Francis at first with her early fame and success, having come from a somewhat similar sort of family, I found her stories of her home life incredibly interesting. A lot of other reviewers felt that Melissa’s voice throughout the book was too entitled and whining, but personally, I applauded the hard work she did throughout her life to provide for her family and felt that the sacrifices she made, especially throughout college, prove that she was more than an entitled rich kid. She did have a lot of fantastic opportunities throughout her life, but many of those opportunities were held against her by her mother in their toxic relationship. If you can relate to having a toxic parent, loved The Glass Castle, are interested in show business, or are a fan of Melissa Francis now (she is currently a news presenter on Fox, I believe?), this might be a very worthy read for you. Personally, I couldn’t put it down; it is one of the top books I’ve read so far this year.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This is an interesting book, enough that I kept reading it. While it's easy to put down, it is good enough that I also was anxious to pick it up again. The reader sees Melissa grow up with a mother who saw to Melissa’s career as an actress from the time she was an infant. Melissa also went to school, unlike other child actors. Often they are "home schooled" (Melissa's quotation marks) so they are available for auditions. One "home-schooled" third grader, Melissa observed, couldn't even sound out This is an interesting book, enough that I kept reading it. While it's easy to put down, it is good enough that I also was anxious to pick it up again. The reader sees Melissa grow up with a mother who saw to Melissa’s career as an actress from the time she was an infant. Melissa also went to school, unlike other child actors. Often they are "home schooled" (Melissa's quotation marks) so they are available for auditions. One "home-schooled" third grader, Melissa observed, couldn't even sound out a three-syllable word. We read other books about poor families having their children work. Melissa did this, too. Sometimes we forget that acting is real work. As Melissa got older, competition became fiercer, and she got fewer and fewer roles. When she wasn't working, her mother got more unreasonable and lazy. So Melissa went to Harvard, far from her home in California and her mother. Other reviewers of this book say that they like it less after this point. But I think the opposite. While Melissa's life as a child actor is interesting, that part of her story isn't riveting. But it is while she is in college and after she gets married and moves to San Francisco that the reader really sees her mother’s insanity. She was descending for years and this is the finality. This explains how Melissa could write what she did, say what she said. I now respect Melissa Francis. I won this book on the blog http://undermyappletree.net/

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Hooper

    Compelling Family Drama I've really never read one if these 'tell-all' books before, but being a fan of Fox News I was intrigued by Melissa's story. I had watched her for couple of years never realizing that she was the little girl I watched on Little House so many years ago. When I heard a little bit of her story I decided to read her book. Much of the time I found the book difficult to read and sometimes found it hard to sympathize with her. Maybe it's typical of a tell all, but the rhythm and p Compelling Family Drama I've really never read one if these 'tell-all' books before, but being a fan of Fox News I was intrigued by Melissa's story. I had watched her for couple of years never realizing that she was the little girl I watched on Little House so many years ago. When I heard a little bit of her story I decided to read her book. Much of the time I found the book difficult to read and sometimes found it hard to sympathize with her. Maybe it's typical of a tell all, but the rhythm and pacing of the writing made her seem, at times, detached. Let me say, though, that I believe her story and the categorizations she made about her mother, sister and father. But even at this stage of her life how can she not have had more rage toward her father for allowing so much of it to go on? Maybe at some point she did confront him about checking out so much of the time while her mother was left free to torture her sister and her. Anyway, so glad she took a stand and cut her mother out of her life, as it sounds like both she and her father have found some peace with their lives and with each other. I only hope for a miracle and that her mother can seek the help she clearly needs, and that there could be a complete and total healing in their family, and a reconciliation that would also involve her children. I believe it to be possible.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This was well written but I feel like she could have gotten some more of her sister's side. I don't think she meant it like this (and it's understandable, I have sisters myself) but all her sister's problems seemed just to be annoying because they impacted her: her sister changed clothes at the wedding, it just ruined everything; her sister didn't act right or dress right; she wasn't there to back Ms. Francis up and save her from everything anymore; that kind of thing. There doesn't seem to be a This was well written but I feel like she could have gotten some more of her sister's side. I don't think she meant it like this (and it's understandable, I have sisters myself) but all her sister's problems seemed just to be annoying because they impacted her: her sister changed clothes at the wedding, it just ruined everything; her sister didn't act right or dress right; she wasn't there to back Ms. Francis up and save her from everything anymore; that kind of thing. There doesn't seem to be any exploration of how her sister really lived and what experiences she went through while Ms. Francis was away at college. Other than that, her mother sounds like a piece of work. Oy vey.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Summer Rippe

    A book about a raging narcissist written by a narcissist. Melissa spends a great amount of time talking “down” about people. From critiquing the woman who ran her house camp’s body shape (“her round belly and breasts were barely contained by her too tight shirt and didn’t meet the waist of her jeans”, ugh) to how gross the people were that she “worked” with in Harvard’s cafeteria, Melissa sneers at everyone who is not as beautiful or smart as she is. And that’s pretty much everyone she meets acc A book about a raging narcissist written by a narcissist. Melissa spends a great amount of time talking “down” about people. From critiquing the woman who ran her house camp’s body shape (“her round belly and breasts were barely contained by her too tight shirt and didn’t meet the waist of her jeans”, ugh) to how gross the people were that she “worked” with in Harvard’s cafeteria, Melissa sneers at everyone who is not as beautiful or smart as she is. And that’s pretty much everyone she meets according to her. I found it odd that she complains about her mother’s narcissism but seems to be an even worse one. Bad person. Bad writing. Bad book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I felt that the author merely skimmed the surface with her story. The writing is not impressive. Although some awful things happened in her family, and her mother was often cold and uncaring, I don't know if it could really be chalked up to her being a "stage mother". It's hard to say because I really couldn't get attached to anyone in this book. I felt that the author merely skimmed the surface with her story. The writing is not impressive. Although some awful things happened in her family, and her mother was often cold and uncaring, I don't know if it could really be chalked up to her being a "stage mother". It's hard to say because I really couldn't get attached to anyone in this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Great memoir. I love stories of nutty families. Makes my family stories feel tame by comparison. Haha.

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