I’m Glad My Mom Died - Critical summary review - Jennette McCurdy

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I’m Glad My Mom Died - critical summary review

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Biographies & Memoirs

This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: 

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN: 1982185821

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Critical summary review

As the shocking title suggests, the central story of Jennette McCurdy’s memoir is a relationship with her mother that left deep marks on her life. Such a relationship is mostly shaped by the pressures of a narcissistic mother and a child who responds to those pressures by developing eating and obsessive- compulsive disorders, alcohol addiction, and, in the end, deep hate toward her controlling mother. So, get ready to hear a disturbing confession of a young woman whose life, sadly, began after her mother passed away. 

Christmas wrapping paper in June

Jennette had been waiting for the moment when she would stand in front of a birthday cake and make a wish for several weeks. She says that the birthday wish was ‘’the most power’’ she had in her life then, so she did not want to take that opportunity for granted. As she looked around, she could see her father, brothers Marcus, Dustin, and Scottie, as well as her grandparents. Her mother was there, too, watching and smiling at her. The gifts were wrapped in Christmas paper, although it was June, because her mom liked to save wrapping paper and reuse it for other occasions.

When Jennette was two, her mother was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Although she was too young to remember that, Jennette knew her mother's cancer story by heart as she would often reminisce about the illness and play a home video she made shortly after the diagnosis. That video would usually remind her mother how Jennette did not fit in the sad atmosphere but sang Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs. Jennette writes, ‘’I feel tremendous guilt every time we rewatch the home video. How could I not have known better? What a stupid idiot. How could I have not sensed what Mom needed? That she needed all of us to be serious, to be taking the situation as hard as we possibly could, to be devastated. She needed us to be nothing without her.’’

 Frequent recollections of the details of a cancer story made the general atmosphere in McCurdy’s household tense as if they were all treading the illness would come back at some point. As Jennette writes, ‘’The fragility of Mom’s life is the center of mine.’’ So, as she leaned toward the candle, ready to earn the fulfillment of her birthday wish, six- year-old Jennette had only one thing in mind - she wished her mother would stay alive another year.

You’re gonna be a star, Nettie

‘’I was destined for a good life. For fame and fortune,’’ Jennette’s mother told her while clipping her hair. ‘’You know how much I wanted to be an actress.’’ “But Grandma and Grandpa wouldn’t let you,” Jennette adds. “But Grandma and Grandpa wouldn’t let me, that’s right.” And then go the lines typical for parents who transfer their unfulfilled ambitions to their kids. “I want to give you the life I never had, Net. I want to give you the life I deserved. The life my parents wouldn’t let me have. I think you should act. I think you would be a great little actress. Cuz I’m not like my parents. I want what’s best for you. Always. You know that, right?”

Jennette was nervous when she had to go on stage for her first audition. Her voice shook, and she giggled after each line, just as her mother had told her. She did not want to disappoint her. However, her mother was a little disappointed because Jennette was chosen to be a background actress. ‘’Why can’t she do principal work now?,” she asked after hearing feedback from one of the members of the jury. ‘’She seems quite shy. It’s important that Jennette wants to act, in order for her to do well,” the man told her mother. “Oh, she wants this more than anything,” she exclaimed. Jennette did not want it, though. The audition day was stressful, not fun, and she did not want to repeat it ever again. On the other hand, she did wish to make her mother happy, so what her mother said was, in some way, true.

A few days after signing a contract with Academy Kids, Jennette began doing the background work for a show called ‘’The X Files.’’ She and the other 29 children were supposed to play children stuck in a chamber and suffocating to death. By the end of the day, she was exhausted from being on set, doing school work, walking from stage to classroom, and listening to directions. But, she did not mind it as long as her mother was content. On the way home, she ecstatically repeated the words, as if they were the mantra, “You’re gonna be a star, Nettie. I just know it. You’re gonna be a star.”

Calorie restriction as a prevention of growing up

It was when she was on one of the Revlon Run/Walks to support women with breast cancer that Jennette realized her chest was sore. More precisely, it was the nipple area on the right side of her chest. Terror immediately filled her body. She probably had cancer. How was she supposed to tell her mother that?

When she ran her fingers back and forth along her nipples, her mother told Jennette with a laugh that the thing she got, fortunately, wasn’t cancer but breasts. But was this such good news after all? Breasts were a sign of growing up and perhaps a warning that she would lose her mother’s love. When she entered the acting world, her mother bragged that Jennette looked young for her age. She would often weep and hold her tight, saying she wanted her to stay small and young. “Well, is there anything I could do to stop the boobies from coming in?” Jennette asked her mother nervously. “Well, sweetheart, if you really want to know how to stay small, there’s this secret thing you can do… it’s called calorie restriction.”

When she teamed up with her mother in counting calories and planning their meals, Jennette started shrinking. She even came up with the idea to eat only half of her meals to lose weight faster. When Jennette would show her mother a plate with the food half-eaten, they were both happy. Therefore, when a few months after the introduction of the calorie restriction program, the doctor asked if she noticed any changes in Jennette’s eating habits, her mother lied that everything was perfectly fine and that Jennette was eating normally. Just as she ignored the doctor’s warning of anorexia, she ignored her father’s suggestion Jennette should go to the therapist because of her little rituals that reminded him of OCD. “Jennette’s perfect, all right?’’ she told him. ‘’She does not need help.” But, Jennette was far from being OK, and unfortunately, many years had to pass until she realized she needed the help her grandfather was talking about.

Is my entire identity built on a false foundation?

Jennette’s music career initially started when the filming of the show ‘’iCarly’’ she was part of was put on hold in 2007. Shift to singing was a suggestion of her agent Susan, and, of course, her mother pushed her into it. When the time for the first tour came, her mother found out her cancer returned, so she could not accompany her. Although sad because of her mother's illness, Jennette was at the same time happy since she could be away from her for the first time in her life.

The first thing she noticed while being on tour was that she was enjoying herself. She felt free - she could eat as much as she wanted and shower by herself (her mother insisted on showering Jennette until she was 16). Also, she realized how exhausting it was to constantly curate her ‘’natural tendencies, responses, thoughts, and actions into whatever version Mom would like most.’’ However, this realization was not enough for Jennette to admit how unhealthy her mother’s behavior towards her was. She couldn’t even do it until long after her mother died. When, on her boyfriend’s suggestion, Jennette started therapy to tackle the grief over her mother’s death, bulimia, and alcohol issues, she quit after a few sessions because her therapist said her mother abused her by condoning and encouraging her anorexia. ‘’If Mom really didn’t want what was best for me, or do what was best for me, or know what was best for me, that means my entire life, my entire point of view, and my entire identity have been built on a false foundation,’’ she taught at that moment. How could she destroy that foundation? And if she did, how could she build a new one from the ground up? 

My mom did not deserve her pedestal

There are about twenty adjectives engraved on Jennette’s mother's headstone because everyone in the family had adjective pitches, and none wanted to give up on theirs. So, there they were: brave, kind, loyal, sweet, loving, graceful, strong, thoughtful, funny, genuine, hopeful, playful, insightful, and so on. Was she any of those things? Jennette wondered as she looked at them. It was the first time she stood beside her grave in a long time. Shortly after her funeral, she used to visit it every day, as she promised her. However, ‘’with time and reality, the visits have become less and less, and so has the guilt.’’

The longer she looked at the engravings on the headstone, Jennette became more and more angry. People generally tend to romanticize the dead, especially mothers. Mothers are saints held up on a pedestal - not only after they die, but during their life also. That pedestal keeps many children dependent, stuck in fear and emotional pain, and with no awareness of those feelings or ability to overcome them. As she thought about her mother, Jennette realized she did not deserve her pedestal. She writes, ‘’She was a narcissist. She refused to admit she had any problems, despite how destructive those problems were to our entire family. My mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.’’ That abuse included denying her the chance to develop as a child and form her identity as she pushed her into a career a six-year-old Jennette did not want. Moreover, she robbed her of her joy and free-spiritedness as she taught her an eating disorder when she was eleven. Although mad, Janette also remembered the things she missed - her mother’s childlike spirit, infectious happiness, pep talks. Would she regret the damage she did to Jennette if she was still alive? Maybe she would apologize and encourage her to develop her own identity and pursue her hopes and dreams. Would she? Jennette knew she would not. ‘’If she were still alive, she’d still be trying her best to manipulate me into being who she wants me to be,’’ she writes. ‘’Brave, kind, loyal, sweet, loving, graceful.’’ She stood up, and walked away, knowing she would never want to see these words again.

Final Notes

We assume writing a memoir was liberating for McCurdy - it enabled her to release the burden of negative feelings accumulated for years, as well as to speak about the horrors she had to endure for the first time. Yet, this book was not beneficial for its writer alone, but for everyone who experienced similar abuse - after reading it, they will, hopefully, feel empowered to start walking toward positive changes in their lives.

12min Tip

If you experienced or are currently an object of physical or emotional abuse, seek professional help. It will be challenging to break out of the unhealthy cycle, especially in the beginning, but keep in mind you need to endure the treatment if you want to fully recover.

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Who wrote the book?

Jennette Michelle Faye McCurdy is an American writer, director, podcaster, and former actress and singer. As an actress, she is most famous for her role in the Nickelodeon sitcom ‘’iCarly.’’ She also starred in famous series, such as ‘’Malcolm in the Middle,’’ ‘’Zoey 101,’’ and ‘’Victorious.’’ The lead sing... (Read more)

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