In her new memoir, Sally Field relates her childhood struggles to be accepted as an actress, and the difficulty she experienced coming to grips with her relationship with her beloved mother. “In Pieces" lays bare Field’s enormous difficulties, revealing the deep sadness and shame she felt because she often left her children to pursue her career.
Unbelievably, in light of her success, Field saw herself as a person “in pieces.” Rage, dependability to a fault, lack of confidence as an actress, being overly compliant, pleasing others but not herself, were ingrained in her.
Until late in life (she is now in her 70s), she never recognized her individuality or sense of self because she was always trying to be whatever other people wanted her to be. She was able to be everything to everyone, a survival skill she employed. It cost her much in self-loathing, uncertainty and anxiety.
If one is looking for a tell-all book full of titillating gossip about Burt Reynolds, with whom she famously shared five roller coaster years, readers will be disappointed with “In Pieces.” They also won’t find Field criticizing her industry peers or providing personal details about any of the costars in her movies, television films, or on the stage. Those about whom she does write are praised.
“In Pieces” opens with Field recalling how she acted in a middle school play, recognizing the joy and release she felt as she performed. However, until she gets approval from her mother in the car coming home, with the words, “It was magical,” Field feels little. So began a life-long journey of trying to please her mother, a frustrated actress, beautiful, kind and adored by Field.
Though Field was sexually abused for years by her stepfather, her mother turned a blind eye and began a descent into alcoholism that didn’t abate until Field had her own children. Her mother’s second husband, Jacques Mahoney, nicknamed Jocko, was a B-list movie and television actor, but he provided, for a time at least, financial security for Field, her mother, and Field’s older brother.
Jocko and Field’s mother were complicit when Field traveled to Tijuana to have an abortion just as the young woman was beginning her professional acting career. Little to no conversation revolved around this decision. Field wasn’t offered a choice either regarding the procedure. When Jocko lost jobs and couldn’t support the family, he disappeared. Field and her family, which included a little sister, moved from one decrepit housing unit to the next.
At 17, Field began her work in the television series “Gidget,” followed by “The Flying Nun,” and became the family breadwinner, giving money to her biological father and stepfather too. Her husband and subsequently a boyfriend did not provide her with income. Field wasn’t really wealthy for years, but she was generous to those who depended on her, and this financial pressure lasted for many years.
Field chronologically details events in her life, but they always revolve around her feelings for her mother. To the reader, it seems clear that her mother truly let her down, and didn’t protect her from the worst. It’s not until her mother nears the end of her life that Field confronts her. Even then, the situation seems glossed over by them.
Field ends up resolving her feelings for her mother by acknowledging positive contributions she made—her mother never left her and her career couldn’t have evolved without her mother caretaking her grandchildren, at the time Field’s two young sons. Field also admits to being a less than perfect parent.
To this day, Field remains cute and bubbly in public, even as she bears the inevitable signs of aging. She is a strong woman, incredibly accomplished, and remarkably focused. Field is open and honest about her struggles with osteoporosis. She continues to act and won awards for portraying an elderly woman in the 2015 film, “My Name is Doris.”
Those who read “In Pieces” may recognize strengths in themselves as they discover how a woman who seemed to have it all overcame obstacles that could have caused a person of less fortitude to succumb to defeat or cease to thrive. This is an honest memoir of personal relationships, hardships, success, and ultimately self-acceptance.