Thank you to Netgalley and Riverdale Avenue Books for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was a pre-teen and teenager when I first watched the reruns of the Mary Tyler Moore show in the mid to late 1970’s. I would come home from school every day and watch an episode Monday to Friday. Mary was probably the first role-model (that wasn’t a teacher) that I had with respect to women working outside of the home, being independent and confident in herself and her abilities. Many women have credited the influence that the Mary Tyler Moore show had on their lives as young women including myself, so when I had an opportunity to review this book, I jumped at the chance.
I thought that the author, Marc Shapiro, took an interesting and new approach to writing a biography on Mary Tyler Moore. While he covered all the areas of her life, he also recognized (and credited) the fact that she had already written two memoirs prior to her death and so the focus of this book was more how she influenced women, society and the feminist movement.
It is interesting to note that while her character on the MTM show echoed many of the intrinsic values of the feminist movement, Mary herself, did not identify as a feminist and was reluctant to be considered a spokesperson for it despite the fact that her co-star, Valerie Harper, enthusiastically endorsed the movement. I also found it interesting that because Mary moved from her parent’s home at eighteen directly into a marriage and soon after motherhood, it wasn’t until later in life when she was divorced and single that she actually started experiencing some of the same life situations as her character from the MTM show. She seemed to take a certain pride in becoming an independent woman on her own, doing what she wanted, when she wanted and accountable to no one.
As we all know, Mary had many other acting jobs other than the MTM show and the author touches on all areas of Mary’s career including her first big break which was the Dick Van Dyke show. He writes about her difficulties trying to recapture that success again after the MTM show finished but each show that she tried always fell short. It seemed like the world had moved on and the television viewing audience was not interested in seeing her in any other role than MTM. She did have other successes later in life such as her roles in Ordinary People, Stolen Babies and Heartsounds.
Marc also covers the subject of Mary being diagnosed as a diabetic and her struggles with alcoholism which she eventually dealt with later in life by entering the Betty Ford clinic.
Mary lost her only child, Richie, when he was a young man from an accident with a gun and she never really got over his death, not only because of lost future opportunities with him and possibly future grandchildren, but in the feelings of guilt that she had because she knew that she hadn’t in some respects been a good mother to Richie. Mary was candid in examining her guilt with respect to her spending an unequal and unbalanced amount of time and effort on her career versus motherhood.
I think that the author did a good job incorporating the many quotes from Mary that had been captured over the years from her books and various interviews. Because of this, I felt that the book was quite accurate in his portrayal of this woman who touched so many lives.
I gave this book a four star rating on Goodreads and recommend it if you have any interest in this actor.
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