I almost didn’t get into this book. At first, Sam Hart’s writing, in two or three sentence paragraphs, jarred me. I didn’t know if there would be a story, yet what she was saying in bits and pieces engaged my attention. I read some reviews – both positive and negative and decided to read on. Now, I cannot stop thinking about her life, covered her into her early thirties or so. And I think her way of telling it was just right. Much is made in the press around this book about Hart’s significant creative and financial success as a creative director and stylist, working and winning awards for films you would recognize. She had a knack early on for reorganizing rooms to a new and better look and styling her outfits from thrift store finds. This helped her with some rather surprising jobs and careers, as a teenager and well into her twenties. We do not learn of her later success in this book. But if she had never made it big at all, her jagged persistence in making a better life for herself and slowly making more good choices for herself, when she spent a lifetime of often having only lousy or worse choices, makes Sam’s story. She did not have to succeed in a conventional or big splash way to be a hero. She just had to figure out things adults did not teach her or model for her and live a safer life and a happier life. This isn’t an easy book to read because, like many people who have been abused as children, Sam needs to figure out how to survive pretty much on her own from her earliest years. There is much to respect in how well she managed, leaving one seriously abusive setting at fourteen for a less, but still abusive new setting. How do you grow up and find a way to live a stable life when you are fully on your own at fourteen and, for the next fifteen years living on the edge, vulnerable to predatory men, damaged men, and the drug scene. When most people in your life are emotionally detached and no one is a poster-child for living a sober, self-sustaining, calm, and interesting-in-a-good-way life and you need to be deceptive with most people, how do you become you? Sam has always known there is something more she wants. She travels a path that weaves in fits and starts, through drinking rum and cokes at fourteen with her con-man father; supporting herself to get through high school; falling in with men who house her for a time but do not connect emotionally; constant exposure to drug use; time as a backgammon champion; and posing for, then falling into business with a photographer who shoots for men’s magazines. Still, people like her and remember her and think she is pretty. Sam learns from each dead end, each fall into despair. It helps a lot that she is a people person, that some really horrible people also created opportunities for her and that here and there, some people cared for her and her welfare, without strings attached. Eventually, she gets to a more ordinary relationship where the things that go wrong are more familiar to many of us, at first happy, then sad, then angry, then over. But in a way that is so much more normal. During this time, she figures out more about family, connecting emotionally with people, and ending certain odd pretenses and deceptions. This is both a book about being alone in the world from birth and doing more than surviving. It is about having a compass that spins wildly and then heads true North. It is the story of imperfection and finding family and your authentic self.
Published by Emily Leader
I have been an avid reader since Dick and Jane met Sally. At age 7, I read my parents' first edition of "To Kill a Mockingbird." I am a retired lawyer and so read almost only fiction for pleasure. I'm adding in nonfiction these days, largely on social justice matters but also history, biography, and weird topics that catch my imagination. I used to read only serially, one book at a time. Presently, I read paperbacks, hardcovers, listen to audible, listen to CDs and read online through Net Galley. Covid-19 has caused me to read a lot so I have re-upped my Goodreads challenge for 2021 and am starting to review at least my favorite finds annd, perhaps, some stinkers. View all posts by Emily Leader