In the interest of full disclosure: I did not see the Oprah interview and I was never really a Phillips fan. I picked up this book because everyone I know was talking about it. Flat out curiosity was my only motivation.
Whatever else you can say about the book, it is a quick read. I didn't spend a lot of time or energy on it. Basically it took me an afternoon to read. I have to constantly remind myself that, really, the only thing I lost in the transaction was a few bucks.
Let me get this part out of the way, her revelation that she had a sexual relationship with her Dad (consensual or not) is one of the least shocking parts of the book. The real shocker is the extent to which Mackenzie and her brother were chronically abused and neglected by their hapless, feckless parents. The sex is almost anticlimactic.
If she is to be believed, the abysmal lack of responsible adults in her life is horrifying. In the end none of the supposed adults look good. Not her father or her mother or her many step parents or even her aunt who at least tried to intervene.
The "if she is to be believed part" is also troubling. This is a women who by her own account was pretty chronically wasted on drugs. Yet she has an uncanny recollection of events, conversations and her motives when it suits her purpose.
The book is really nothing more than a long rambling "drunkalog" in which she names names, settles a few scores, blames a lot of people and justifies her life choices. The resulting story, all 300 pages of it, is sad and frustrating.
Abuse, whether neglect or incest, has long term, serious consequences and at a year of sobriety most people are unable to sort out the wreckage. And even if they can, it is not exactly something to do out loud and in public. It is a job that requires time, hard work and a lot of help from someone: a therapist, spiritual advisor or 12-step sponsor.
Admittedly she has a story to tell. The problem is that by telling it too soon she has set her self up become a victim. Creating a media circus and implicating others guarantees more isolation for a person who's whole life has been about being alone and different.
Here is the publisher's synopsis:
Not long before her fiftieth birthday,Mackenzie Phillips walked into Los Angeles International Airport. She was on her way to a reunion for One Day at a Time, the hugely popular 70s sitcom on which she once starred as the lovable rebel Julie Cooper. Within minutes of entering the security checkpoint, Mackenzie was in handcuffs, arrested for possession of cocaine and heroin.
Born into rock and roll royalty, flying in Learjets to the Virgin Islands at five, making pot brownies with her father's friends at eleven, Mackenzie grew up in an all-access kingdom of hippie freedom and heroin cool. It was a kingdom over which her father, the legendary John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, presided, often in absentia, as a spellbinding, visionary phantom.
When Mackenzie was a teenager, Hollywood and the world took notice of the charming, talented, precocious child actor after her star-making turn in American Graffiti. As a young woman she joined the nonstop party in the hedonistic pleasure dome
her father created for himself and his fellow revelers, and a rapt TV audience watched as Julie Cooper wasted away before their eyes. By the time Mackenzie discovered how deep and dark her father's trip was going, it was too late. And as an adult, she has paid dearly for a lifetime of excess, working tirelessly to reconcile a wonderful, terrible past in which she succumbed to the power of addiction and the pull of her magnetic father.
As her astounding, outrageous, and often tender life story unfolds, the actor-musician-mother shares her lifelong battle with personal demons and near-fatal addictions. She overcomes seemingly impossible obstacles again and again and journeys toward redemption and peace. By exposing the shadows and secrets of the past to the light of day, the star who turned up High on Arrival has finally come back down to earth -- to stay.