In this candid and intimate memoir, Mulgrew (Born with Teeth), an actress on Star Trek: Voyager, chronicles her father’s death at 83 from lung cancer, as well as her artist mother’s decline from Alzheimer’s disease. Mulgrew, one of eight children, was doing a live show in Florida when she learned of her father’s cancer diagnosis. She returned home to take on “a principal role in a real-life drama” and oversaw his final days, while also taking care of her mother. Back in Dubuque County, Iowa, on the 40-acre estate her father purchased to raise his large Irish Catholic family, Mulgrew delves into her past and her complicated relationship with the uncommunicative father she adores. She recalls how he drove her three hours to Milwaukee for her first audition even though—unlike her mother—he didn’t support her dream of acting. The book also has lighter moments (the author and her brother delight in watching their mother, even in the throes of Alzheimer’s, knock off eight whiskeys at a New York City bar). In an intensely intimate moment, Mulgrew bathes her comatose father; two years later, she holds vigil at her dying mother’s bedside. This is a detailed and searing portrait of a family facing the inevitability of death. (May)
A darkly unsettling and unvarnished post-mortem of one fractured, complicated American family that will feel deeply, even painfully, familiar to some and shockingly, fascinatingly alien to others, but its emotional power is universally compelling. This is a masterfully crafted memoir, an elegant tour de force that firmly establishes Mulgrew as a writer of significant literary endowment. The soulmate to Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, How to Forget, despite the promise of its title, cannot be forgotten or ignored.
This is a passionate book by a passionate writer. Overflowing with the true terrors of family life, with the fight for love and connection and understanding, with an amazing American story of hope and disappointment, sorrow and roots, this memoir will electrify readers and become a part of what we know about who we are.
Kate Mulgrew is a brilliant actor, which does not conceal her brilliance with the pen. This memoir, How to Forget, plunges you into familiar, familial depths of death, disease, and despair, only to pull you up again with a bawdy laugh. Death, disease, and despair are not walls for Mulgrew, but they are steps towards the sunlight of serenity. Read and cry, read and laugh, read and remember How to Forget.
[An] engrossing story of a daughter’s love, told with brutal honesty.
Though both sections of Mulgrew’s memoir build to painful goodbyes, How to Forget is more than just a sad play-by-play of illness and decline. It’s a beautiful portrait of a daughter’s love for her parents, packed with sharp, amusing recollections, all told with love.
Mulgrew has written a finely detailed memoir that brings [her parents], ever so briefly and only on its pages, back to life. . . . It’s the achingly unique particulars of the relationships between the author, her five brothers and sisters, and their parents that make this book stand out.
Mulgrew, an actress best known for Star Trek: Voyager and Orange Is the New Black, plays her best role: as herself. This is no Hollywood tell-all, but a moving personal story about her family, in particular her aging parents, whom she cared for as they faced terminal illnesses.
An award-winning actor's account of returning to her hometown of Dubuque, Iowa, to care for parents diagnosed with devastating terminal illnesses.
Lonely, drained, and exhausted, Mulgrew (Born with Teeth, 2015), who has starred in Star Trek: Voyager and Orange Is the New Black, was on a theater tour in Florida when she first received word that her father, Tom, had lung cancer. Years earlier, she and her siblings had learned that their mother was suffering from atypical Alzheimer's disease. Now, the girl she had left behind in Iowa "suddenly kicked, and swam hard for the surface," wanting nothing more than to return home and help her parents. In this powerful memoir, Mulgrew pays homage to her mother and father, their deep, at times troubled union, and the intense bonds she shared with each. She dedicates the first half of the book to her father, a charming alcoholic tormented by the fact that he "wasn't a loser but…wasn't a winner, either." The author's relationship with him simmered with tension over the years, and when his wife, Joan, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it was the author whom she named her health care guardian. In the second half of the book, Mulgrew tells the story of her mother. Though outwardly vibrant, Joan had been made inwardly fragile by the loss of her own mother at an early age. She married Tom, "who had wooed her with…tenacity" and promises of happiness, only to find mediocrity. His drinking drove her to take solo trips from home and temporary refuge in the arms of a handsome local priest. The author became her source of strength when death and disappointment marred her later life. Like Born with Teeth, this book is self-consciously literary and sometimes overwritten. Nonetheless, the narrative offers a rich, eloquent, and emotionally complex portrait of parent-child bonds and a colorful, unforgettable family.
On the whole, Mulgrew delivers another candid and moving memoir.
In her first memoir, Born with Teeth, stage and screen actress Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager; Orange Is the New Black) discussed her longing for the daughter she gave up for adoption. With this follow-up, she examines a different form of longing—that of her parents' approval. In two sections, one devoted to each parent, Mulgrew recounts life as the second oldest of eight children, in an Irish Catholic household in Dubuque, IA, with a family history of alcoholism and silent resentment. She details her dad's hard childhood and his impassivity after the deaths of two of Mulgrew's sisters while relating her mom's equally challenging upbringing, losing her own mom at a young age, and retreating into herself after the sudden loss of two children. With candor, Mulgrew shares her efforts at caregiving after her mom develops Alzheimer's and, later, her dad is diagnosed with cancer. The author's privilege shows in passages about her reliance on her caregivers of Mexican descent; however, she reveals the painful effects of a family's long-standing fear of doctors and lack of vulnerability. VERDICT Though long-winded at times, this intimate memoir shares the realities of loving flawed parents and coping with grief and loss; a worthwhile read.—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal