Book Review – Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story, by Carol Burnett

Book Review – Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story, by Carol Burnett

Scanning the shelves of a neighborhood bookstore, it wouldn’t be difficult to find the latest book by successful actress and New York Times best-selling author, Carol Burnett. What would be a bit more surprising is that the book also touches on addiction – not Carol’s, but her daughter Carrie’s.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This is, after all, a mother-daughter love story as the title proclaims. In fact, Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story couldn’t be anything else. It is so poignant and real and such an honest expression of love that it is almost painful to read.

Every busy parent can relate to a young child growing up and wanting, needing more time from the parent than there seems to be in the day. What we often fail to consider is that this time is so fleeting and precious that it should never be squandered.

In retrospect, writing Carrie’s story, Ms. Burnett poured out her anguish and despair over her daughter’s dalliance with and then descent into addiction. For those parents among us who have loved and supported our own child’s struggle to overcome addiction, these pages will grip us with their wrenching reality.

No matter what rehab or how many times Carrie was brought by her loving mother to the latest treatment facility, nothing seemed to work. Carrie would up and leave and her mother would have no idea of her whereabouts for months at a time. Fearing the worst, but praying for the best, Ms. Burnett held fast to the hope that Carrie would one day learn how to overcome her demons.

Most of all, mother wanted her daughter back, her loving, sweet and immensely talented child.

The happy ending comes in the first part of the book, as Carrie not only does overcome her addiction to alcohol and drugs, she picks up her life and follows in the shoes of her legendary mother, writing and acting with zeal as if she already knew her time on earth would be short.

Fast forward to Carrie’s illness, seen through the lens of repeated sickness, staying in bed, nothing working, the local doctor guessing this or that but nothing serious, and it is obvious to the reader that this story is headed toward tragedy. Carrie died of cancer at the much-too-young age of thirty-eight.

How, exactly does the mother-daughter story work? The book is comprised of two parts. In the first part, interspersed with Ms. Burnett’s commentary and photos, are emails sent back and forth between mother and daughter. Wherever Carrie was, she always found time to dash off quick updates on what was going on with her. She also sent along pages of the novel she was working on, Sunrise in Memphis, for her mother’s comments.

Back and forth the emails went. As Carrie grew sicker, mom finally convinced her to come to Los Angeles for better diagnosis and treatment. But we know the end of that saga. There would be no cure, no arresting the course of the disease. Still, Carrie’s spirit was indomitable. She would not give up or give in to cancer. She would live each minute of her life and savor its gift.

What a lesson for all of us in this brave young woman.

Part one closes with Carrie’s death. Part two is quite short. It is the manuscript Carrie was working on that she asked her mother to finish. As a story, it draws you in and makes you want to know where these characters are headed. Alas, since Carrie died while still working on it, we can only guess how she would have continued.

Even though it seems short and somewhat unfinished, it is a touching read, one that gives us an even closer glimpse at the person that Carrie Hamilton was.

Inspirational, motivating, moving – enough said. Read this book.

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