Reviewed by Charlotte
Melissa Francis, childhood star of Little House on the Prairie, writes a book about her life growing up with a stage mother. Having been an actress her whole life with her mom there every step made growing up anything but normal for Melissa. Between missing school for auditions and her mother’s crazy mood swings her childhood was very emotional and challenging.
Not remembering Melissa Francis from Little House on the Prairie, I was not sure how much I would enjoy reading her story. I was very happily surprised by how much of her story really was about her mother and older sister, Tiffany. This was not a story only about Little House on the Prairie, this is a story about a mother who would only accept a perfect child and a picture perfect life and the kids that had to grow up with that mother.
Immediately I despised Melissa’s stage mother. How could a mother ever treat her daughters as she had? I do believe that she felt she was doing the absolute best for the girls, but nothing is further from the truth. As a mother myself, I would hope my kids would never feel the fear and pity Melissa and Tiffany felt towards their mother.
I loved following Melissa through her childhood journey to adulthood. My heart broke at her youth, getting put down and beat up one minute and the built up the next minute. I find it amazing that she made it to adulthood and to a normal adulthood with a successful career. It truly shows the strength Melissa has.
If you read this hoping for the inside scoop on Little House on the Prairie you will be disappointed. If you read the looking for a heartwarming and sometimes sad story about a young girl breaking away from her sometimes cruel mother and becoming a successful journalist, mother, wife and woman you will love this story as much as I did.
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bonus Q & A with Melissa Francis…
I was fifteen years old when I became an emancipated minor, so I wasn’t old enough to drive myself to school much less get an apartment or run my own life. I also hadn’t entertained the possibility that I could really escape my mother’s control, ever. I’d lived my whole life under her watch. And as you read in the book, there were a lot of positives to her management: I won roles, got straight A’s in school, and was spoiled with clothes and gifts. It would be many years before I realized that even for me, the negative overwhelmed the positive.
While reading your story, I felt like your Dad should have stood up for you against your Mom. Did you ever have those feelings or a conversation with him on why he never did?
I love my Dad very much and we are still very close. We email or talk every day. I almost feel like we’ve been through a war together. We are veterans of the same all-consuming disaster. We’ve both emerged alive, but with scars. When I look back at the darkest times, he was almost always at work when my mother was at her cruelest. And Tiffany and I never appealed to him, because we knew we’d be alone with my mother again when he went back to work, and we’d pay dearly then.
In raising your own two children, will you discourage or encourage them to look into an acting career? If you encourage will you be their Stage Mother ?
Everyone asks me this question and I have to laugh because it takes a very cooperative child to be as successful as I was. I wanted to please. I was very obedient, and my boys don’t share that trait. They are wild and wonderful, but they are boys in the truest sense of the word. I don’t see them being patient enough to wait through an audition!
With all you went through with auditions and your childhood jobs, did you ever consider just giving up acting and heading towards a totally different career path?
Absolutely! That’s why toward the end of the book you learn that I decided to go all the way to other side of the country to Harvard when I turned eighteen. Stanford accepted me, and even though my parents pressured me to go there, I decided to move a plane ride away where I couldn’t go on auditions no matter how tempting. I needed to decide if acting was really right for me. I had lived a whole life and had a whole career by that time, I wanted a fresh start. I fell in love in journalism, and I’ve been a writer, reporter and anchor ever since. I host MONEY with Melissa Francis on Fox Business every night (5pm ET, check your local listings!).