November 23, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter

Current Status
In Season
Melissa Francis
Weinstein Books
Nonfiction, Memoir
We gave it an A-

She was sucked into the Hollywood machine as a kid, toiling on the Little House on the Prairie set, filming commercials, going on audition after audition. What had started out as fun turned joyless for Melissa Francis as her mother began pressuring her to excel in every role. When Mom was happy, ”Santa brought every toy I’d ever imagined and a few I hadn’t,” but when Mom was disappointed, Francis might be pushed down the stairs or kicked out of the car. What makes Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter so compelling aren’t just the behind-the-scenes details but the spirited conclusion: Francis cut all ties to her mother and made her own life, first at Harvard and later in broadcast journalism. A-

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