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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  Book Reviews


By Sandy MacDonald

  Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles, Springboard, 266 pages $24.99

Though raised amid privilege (her father was a globe-roaming diplomat), Kathleen Turner did experience privation of a sort: her parents, like many in the 50s, were adherents of the virtue of false modesty. They stinted on the praise. And as if to make up for that shortcoming, Turner spends plenty of Send Yourself Roses - her autobiographical book of Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles, co-written with past Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt- doling out her own.

Like many a new kid in school (another recurrent life role for her), Turner's modus operandi is to come on strong. In the first few pages of the book, she quickly ramps from veiled self-compliments (for instance, a passed-along encomium from Dame Judi Dench) to the real, albeit qualified, thing. In the wake of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Turner reports, I can finally accept that I am extraordinarily skilled at this job..

Nor is she immune to the temptations of oneupswomanship. Smarting from her failure to land a Tony as Martha, she directs an unbecoming nyah-nyah toward Cherry Jones for her award-winning turn in Doubt (Cherry got the Tony, but I got the role). Elizabeth Taylor's efforts to promote AIDS awareness get similar short shrift: Turner brags that when Taylor addressed the National Press Club, she was unable to cite her sources, whereas Turner, speaking on behalf of Childhelp USA, had hers at the ready. Surely both were doing worthy work?

Given that the book's audience is apt to be a self-select one, already convinced of what Turner calls her unique gift, such overweening self-confidence is unlikely to be a deterrent (though one can't help wondering if certain passages are slated for spoofing in some future version of Celebrity Autobiography in Their Own Words). It's really not until life deals her a low blow - the devastating autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis - that she begins to disclose a touching vulnerability. Life-altering disease will do that to you, willy-nilly.

Who would dare question Turner's initial impulse to cover it up? As she points out, Hollywood and its insurers are better equipped to deal with the vagaries of alcoholism and drug addiction than the certainty of chronic disease. It's at this point, more than halfway through the book, that you start to appreciate Turner's mettle and her admitted tendency to bluntness." She spills it all: the terrifying physical toll, the repercussions on her role as all-capable wife and mother, and her gradual slide into self-medication via vodka.

It can't be sheer schadenfreude that brings this portion of the book alive. It's as if she's finally willing to reveal the real Turner, one who'll admit to the self-doubts that intermittently plague us all, whatever our stature or accomplishments. Having come this far, she actually owns up to a debacle as Nina in The Seagull in Winnepeg back in 1980 - so her career path wasn't all roses - and her less than stellar behavior both in public and at home.

Ultimately, as she stops glossing over and starts baring her feet (not of clay but excruciatingly inflamed), you get the sense of a woman who has a good head on her shoulders, even if she lets it swell at times. You also get the feeling that she'd make a great, fierce friend or colleague once you won her allegiance - provided you were willing to ride out the bumps.


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