Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she began her career as an actor. She was talked into going to auditions by her mother, Debra, whose own acting aspirations were thwarted by her disapproving parents. “I want to give you the life I never had, Net,” Debra would tell her. “I want to give you the life I deserved.” McCurdy went on to land roles in the Nickelodeon sitcom iCarly and later in Sam and Cat, alongside Ariana Grande. But her comic turns on screen masked a malaise that manifested in disordered eating and alcohol abuse. It was only later that McCurdy understood how Debra, who forced her to diet and wouldn’t allow her to shower on her own until her late teens, was not like other mothers.
Read by the author, I’m Glad My Mom Died finds McCurdy reassessing her childhood and voicing her mother as only marginally less deranged than Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. The book opens with the adult McCurdy and her brothers crowded around a hospital bed where Debra, who has cancer, is in a coma. In an effort to rouse their mother, each sibling fills her in on family news. When it is McCurdy’s turn, she leans in to deliver the bombshell that will surely jolt her mother into consciousness: “Mommy, I am … so skinny right now.” McCurdy’s memoir is full of these comic moments, expertly placed to counterbalance the bleakness elsewhere. The title is provocative but don’t be deceived: rather than a flippant chronicle of childhood resentment, McCurdy’s memoir an insightful portrait of narcissism, familial dysfunction and the ways cruelty can be mistaken for love.
• I’m Glad My Mom Died is available via Simon & Schuster Audio, 6hr 26min
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