If books were sounds, I’m Glad My Mom Died would be a sob followed by a sigh. A moan followed by a murmur, a wince with a whimper, there is something so painful and off-kilter about Jennette McCurdy’s story. Aside from the actual events and plots that unravel, the characters themselves prescribe a wake-up call for readers with every phrase and thought that is shared. When a mom berates a child and then in the same breath asks for money for a new fridge; when a grandfather watches pain, knows and acknowledges the scars forming over his family’s heart, but acts as a doctor with no real motivation to heal his patients; when a dad is as passive and soft about his life and every life that depends on him; when the absurdity of a situation is so blatant and contradictory, a reader can do nothing but wonder whether two plus two still equals four. Does three times three still equal nine? Is this life outside the realm of pie, outside the realm of my own world? And the answer is yes for most readers.
I am assuming, for a variety of reasons, that most readers will not be mormon. While McCurdy is very gentle with the religion and church she grew up in, there are some judgements and traumas the author is still clearly unpacking with her words. I am also assuming that most readers are not former child actors, since so few of people are. While we are becoming comfortable and conversational as a society with the narrative of trauma associated with childhood stardom or childhood employment, McCurdy brings in an element of severity from a contemporary perspective. And finally, I can assume that most readers know of someone or struggled themselves with eating disorders. However, McCurdy’s story with calorie restriction, control, binging, come from the taught horror of adulthood. Parents are supposed to prepare us for adulthood. McCurdy’s mother taught her to fear it, to avoid it, to do everything you can to prevent it. Ironic, considering we hear how much McCurdy’s mother struggled with cancer and was fighting to survive for so long that she taught her daughter to be near death.
Considering everything I’m assuming the readers of this book are, I want to also recommend this book for those not described above. I want to recommend this book for anyone wondering about whether or not their childhood has trauma and sees some similarities with McCurdy’s story. I want to recommend this book for people who see themselves in some of these characters. I want to recommend this book for everyone. It shows the detriment of avoiding problems, it shows a barometer of personality disfunction that could be curbed by seeking help. It shows what life can be if you play an active role in it.
To end this review, rather than go into too many details and reveal too many spoilers—if you’ve made it this far without hearing much, I shall not spoil it—I am going to make another assumption: this is not the last memoir we will receive from McCurdy. I foresee her playing an active role in the creative nonfiction realm for the foreseeable future. I foresee her coming into a new voice with more clarity as time passes. I foresee that her next work will be written entirely in the past tense since she will become a distinct voice in the present. She will separate herself from the past. And I will read that work as well.