When I read Sally Field’s memoir, In Pieces, the first time, I didn’t move from my sofa for three hours. After I finished, I picked up my phone, which was pinging with texts from fellow Parnassus staffers asking, How’s the book? What did you think? It took me a minute to figure out how to respond. Then I texted back one word, in all caps:
Read on to see why. Meanwhile, I’ve now read In Pieces twice, in preparation for a conversation with Sally Field at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center on September 24. If you can get to Nashville that night, I hope you’ll join us. And wherever you are, I hope you’ll pick up this book — a generous gift from a woman unafraid to share her life story so that we may all better understand not just her, but ourselves. – Mary Laura Philpott
Sally Field’s new memoir officially goes on sale next Tuesday, September 18. Think you know what to expect? Think again. In Pieces is . . .
It took Sally Field seven years to write the book, because she insisted on telling her story her way. Indeed, one of the first things you’ll notice when you start reading In Pieces is that Field writes in a style that’s loose and raw. Like a photograph that hasn’t been airbrushed to erase every wrinkle, her prose conveys realness and intimacy. There’s also a delightful authenticity to the way she blends conversational language with cerebral references and heavy philosophical questions. She introduces one section of the book, for instance, with epigraphs from Rainer Maria Rilke and Gabriel García Márquez, then begins an anecdote with, “I have to say — mostly because I’m a spiteful little twit…”
(Fair warning: You may laugh so hard you do spit-takes while reading this book. Drink responsibly.)
Not Gidget Redux
In Pieces is so much more than a pep talk from America’s sweetheart. Sally Field goes dark in this book. She gets mad. She curses. And she doesn’t hesitate to tell us what she really thinks of some of her most famous work. (The Flying Nun “was all gibberish… meaningless twaddle.”) Refreshingly, when she admits to mixed feelings about some of her choices, she allows that ambivalence, never forcing her narratives one way or the other into a tied-with-a-bow lesson or a renunciation of her past.
Not a Celebrity Lifestyle Guide
Cinephiles will be satisfied to find some star-studded stories here, but even in those Hollywood tales, what comes through is a relatable sense of struggle. In fact, much of the book focuses on her early adult years, making this a great read for young women just starting out professionally, especially in creative fields. Yes, Sally Field knows the gnawing anxiety of imposter syndrome:
“But after each film — some more successful than others — the feelings of accomplishment would quickly disappear, drizzling out through an invisible crack inside me… It was like I was looking for it, waiting for it to happen, wanting to believe the same words about myself that I’d worked so hard to erase from people’s minds long ago: that I was trivial, uninteresting, a lightweight.”
Not The Same Old Magazine Story You’ve Seen 500 Times
If you’re looking for a Smokey and the Bandit retrospective, this isn’t it. Field goes there — briefly and honestly — but she doesn’t stay there. She’s more interested in telling the stories that haven’t already been told.
Field’s memoir shines brightest and stuns most when she writes about family. Revealing disturbing events from her childhood and how they impacted her life, she opens up a recurring theme of damage and healing. (Read more about that in Field’s recent New York Times profile.) The book begins, ends, and frequently revisits Field’s deep, often conflicted bond with her mother, whom she called “Baa.” It’s in those passages about love, anger, blame, and forgiveness that Field makes us feel her aching, impossible desire to go back and do some things over: “Oh, how I wish I had that moment back again or had more time, or could have been the me I am now.”
(On that note: If you’re a crier, maybe don’t finish this book right before you have to go somewhere in public.)
If reading In Pieces feels like having a glass of wine with a wise, kind, funny friend who isn’t afraid to get real with you about the hard stuff, imagine what it would be like to hear her talk about it all in person. You can do just that when Sally Field joins author, Musing editor, and A Word on Words co-host Mary Laura Philpott for a live conversation here in Nashville. Be there:
An Evening with Sally Field
Monday, September 24, 2018, at 6:15 p.m.
James K. Polk Theater, TPAC
Your ticket to attend this special event includes your signed copy of In Pieces. To reserve your seat now, click here.
This event is part of the Salon@615 series, a partnership among Parnassus Books, the Nashville Public Library and Foundation, Humanities Tennessee, and BookPage.