May 25, 2010

Review of "The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House" by Melissa Anderson

Synopsis:  When other girls her age were experiencing their first crushes, Melissa Sue Anderson was receiving handwritten marriage proposals from fans as young, and younger, than she was. When other girls were dreaming of their first kiss, Melissa was struggling through hers in front of a camera. From age eleven in 1974 until she left the show in 1981, Melissa Anderson literally grew up before the viewers of Little House on the Prairie.

Melissa, as Mary, is remembered by many as “the blind sister”—and she was the only actor in the series to be nominated for an Emmy. In Growing Up Mary, she takes readers onto the set and inside the world of the iconic series created by Michael Landon, who, Melissa discovered, was not perfect, as much as he tried to be. In this memoir she also shares her memories of working with guest stars like Todd Bridges, Lou Gossett, Jr., Mariette Hartley, Sean Penn, Patricia Neal, and Johnny Cash.

In addition to stories of life on the set, Melissa offers revealing looks at her relationships off-set with her costars, including the other Melissa (Melissa Gilbert) and Alison Arngrim, who portrayed Nellie Oleson on the show. And she relates stories of her guest appearances on iconic programs such as The Love Boat and The Brady Bunch.

Filled with personal, revealing anecdotes and memorabilia from the Little House years, this book is also a portrait of a child star who became a successful adult actress and a successful adult. These are stories from “the other Ingalls sister” that have never been told.

When I heard about this book, I literally could not wait to dive into it.  I was like a kid on Christmas morning, opening the book with the same type of awe usually afforded to that Red Ryder BB gun or Barbie's deluxe penthouse.  So I should probably begin this review with a disclaimer - - I love Little House on the Prairie.  I loved the books when I was little, I loved the television show and I love reading about production of the show and what went on behind the scenes. 

The Way I See It is Melissa Anderson's tale of growing up on the set of one of the most beloved and iconic television shows of the 1970s, from her initial audition to taping her last episode seven years later.  The book itself is broken into sections for each year of the show, with specific episodes highlighted.  Ms. Anderson recounts behind the scenes tales of everything from a Dinty Moore beef stew overload (what the cast members ate during meal scenes where they had stew) to disputes between co-stars. 

Michael Landon and Karen Grassle (the actress who played Caroline Ingalls) would apparently butt heads throughout much of the run of the show.  Grassle was a classically trained actress who wished to have a more significant role on the show, against Landon's wishes.  Landon himself was revealed as a controlling jokester with a mean streak who could be difficult to work with, particularly once he began an affair with Anderson's stand-in, but who could still remain a compassionate and caring man. 

Ms. Anderson herself did not go without a bit of friction, as she recounted the awkwardness between herself and co-star Radames Pera, who played early love interest John Sanderson, and their first kiss. 

Ms. Anderson recounts these instances with class and grace, without resorting to mudslinging or name calling that is often peppered in Hollywood memoirs.  Also missing from Ms. Anderson's memoir, happily, is the all too tragic tale of alcohol, drugs and other vices that are too common in child actors today.  In fact, Ms. Anderson appears to have escaped unscathed from the downside of the entertainment biz and she comes across as a very level headed and secure adult.  

I finished this book in two or three days.  It was an easy read and fun one, albeit one without dirt and gossip.   I very much enjoyed Ms. Anderson's memories of the show once Mary went blind and appreciated how terrified she herself was to take on such an enormous undertaking (and remember, she herself was only fifteen when she had to portray a newly blind teenager, which she did stunningly).  

Any readers that are looking for a tabloid type of recounting will be disappointed and I encourage those readers not to pick up this book.  For those readers who love and appreciate Little House on the Prairie, this book will be a fun and informative read.  As the title suggests, this is not Melissa Anderson's complete biography so don't approach it as such.  It's her life during the run of Little House, so it does include the performances she gave on films and television shows between 1974 and 1981 but nothing prior or since. 

Was there anything I found disappointing in the book?  I do wish there had been more mentioned about the relationship between Ms. Anderson and Melissa Gilbert, who played sisters, as well as with Allison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson.  I also would have loved reading a behind the scenes recap on each and every single Little House episode but, of course, that would have increased the size of the book exponentially. 

All things considered, I enjoyed my time back on the prairie with Ms. Anderson and wouldn't hesitate to recommend the book.

The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Melissa Anderson is an Emmy–Award winning actress known to millions for playing Mary Ingalls on the NBC television series Little House on the Prairie, which aired from 1974 to 1983. She played First Lady Megan Hollister in the 2006 miniseries 10.5: Apocalypse. Born and raised in California, she lives with her husband, television producer and screenwriter Michael Sloan, and their two children.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.


Tales of Whimsy said...

Sounds like gossip fun. Glad you enjoyed it :)

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna be crazy because I can't get the way i see it ever anddghhhh. But I think it's the best book in the world. :)

Whizz Herald said...

Melissa Sue Anderson changed into very much like her most well-known man or woman position, of the eldest baby & sister, Mary Ingalls -- a quiet, slightly shy lady who could as an alternative examine an ebook than climb a tree.