MOMENTS OF SERENDIPITY & GRACE — A REVIEW

15985391The only child of MacLaine and her husband of thirty years, Steve Parker, Sachi’s surreal childhood began when she was sent to Japan at the age of two—though her mother would sometimes claim Sachi was six—to live with her mercurial father and his mistress. She divided her time being raised by a Japanese governess and going back and forth to L.A. to be with her mother, hamming it up on movie sets, in photo shoots, and Hollywood parties, even winning—and then abruptly losing—the role of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. As she got older and attended boarding school in England and Switzerland, became a Qantas stewardess, and then became involved in a series of abusive relationships she tried to unravel the mysteries of her childhood and her parents’ unconventional marriage.

Including twenty never-before-seen personal photos, Lucky Me: My Life With–and Without–My Mom, Shirley MacLaine is a fascinating look at Hollywood and what it takes to succeed there, the incredible ambition of Shirley MacLaine and the fallout it had on her only child, as well as a woman’s attempt to understand and connect with her extremely complicated parents.

As a fan of Shirley MacLaine, I have always been curious about the less publicized aspects of her life, like her daughter, Sachi Parker. I recall seeing Sachi in bit parts in some movies, and noticed the striking physical resemblance between the two.

But so much about Sachi is distinct, unique. Perhaps growing up in Tokyo and being separated from her mother for large chunks of time informed a lot more about her life than just the obvious elements.

In reading Sachi’s story, her feelings of loss and abandonment shone through for me. And perhaps knowing more of the details of what her life looked like and how it felt for her has helped me fill in some of those missing details of MacLaine’s life, as well.

I like this summing up of Sachi’s perspective near the end of the story, when she concludes that she still doesn’t understand her mother:

“It has taken me this long to realize that I don’t need to understand her. She’s on her journey, and I’m on mine. Our lives may intersect at crucial points, but there’s no reason to expect them to run side by side, on parallel tracks. Mom’s spirit bounces all over the universe like a jet-powered pinball, and every now and then it settles beside me for a moment before some visionary impulse shoots if off again. I’m just a stop on the road: she doesn’t need me, not at all, and she isn’t going to pretend for propriety’s sake that she does. She’s off fulfilling her destiny.”

It takes a lot of courage to accept the reality of one’s relationships, especially those most significant in our lives. I also like this summing up in the final paragraphs:

“Looking back over my life, I see that it’s full of providential moments, moments of serendipity and grace. Whenever things seemed desolate, whenever I was poised to capsize, something unexpected always came along to help me out.”

What I see as I read this story of a woman’s journey is that the mother and daughter are not as different as they appear at first glance. They are each vying for her own place in the world, and doing it on her own terms. And while some readers will only see the opposing points of view and conclude that someone is “lying,” I see that life is often like that. There is your truth, my truth, and the real truth somewhere in between. Four stars.

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