15803186Reviewed by Carrie Ardoin

I was very much looking forward to reading a memoir by a former cast member of Saturday Night Live. I figured if the stories weren’t very interesting, at least they would be funny. It turns out I was not correct on either assumption: the stories Julia Sweeney tells in this book are barely interesting, and not funny at all.

As If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother begins, Julia explains the format. Her tales are divided into four sections, which correspond with four weeks during which Julia is alone, her husband and daughter on different trips during the summer. In these sections, the author explains how she came to get her adopted daughter, her various failed relationships, and eventually the chance meeting by which she met her husband.

In my opinion, the most heart is shown in the raw stories about the loss Julia has suffered of her brother, with whom she was very close in childhood. She talks about her brother’s addiction and subsequent illness and death in a way that is almost detached, but the reader can tell that she is hiding an underlying emotion that just maybe she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing with the general public.

Also enjoyable to me are the frank talks that Julia has with her daughter, Mulan. She adopted her daughter from China at 17 months old, and raised her alone for several years. As Mulan grows, she wants answers about where she came from, why she was adopted, and why she doesn’t have a father. Sweeney answers all her questions as if she were speaking to an adult, frankly and in a mature manner. Mulan is quite intelligent, and you can tell this is a benefit of the way her mother raised her.

Unfortunately, these heartfelt moments are outnumbered by anecdotes about random men Julia dated and tales about a woman from her neighborhood she calls her “nemesis.” I could grasp that some of these tales were Sweeney’s way of portraying how she feels somewhat outcast as an older mother with a racially different daughter, but overall most of the narratives the author shares do not seem to have a point, and caused the book to fall flat for me as a whole. I feel if Julia Sweeney had been a bit more open with her emotions, this memoir would have been more of a success.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.