Booze, chaos and depression pass from mother to daughter in this searing memoir.
Van Ivan grew up in the 1950s smoldering in a childhood from hell: dragging her inebriated mother home from bars where she’d passed out; weathering a string of unstable stepfathers; getting yanked from home to home and toted along on drunken transcontinental joy rides; being left alone to take care of her younger brothers when their parents disappeared for days on end. There’s squalor aplenty in this saga, but also feisty resilience and even lyricism in van Ivan’s unsparing account of her appalling circumstances. The adults in her life—her beautiful, cruel mother, her charming and mostly absent bookie father—loom mythically large in her child’s-eye perspective, which, depending on unpredictable twists of fortune, veers between apprehension, panic, wary relief and rare carefree idylls. The toll all this takes on her becomes gradually apparent as van Ivan makes her way into adulthood determined not to make her mother’s mistakes but apparently fated to do so anyway. Bouncing between New York and Hollywood in pursuit of a marginal show-business career (she sketches vivid portraits of celebrities she encountered, from a dapper Cary Grant to a crazed John Cassavetes), she develops her own unappeasable yen for alcohol and drugs and embarks on a series of rickety marriages and relationships.
Her empty, unmoored life becomes a whirl of hangovers, blackouts and compulsive thoughts of suicide. This is dark material, but van Ivan treats it with an exhilarating irony that avoids bathos. She tells her story with novelistic detail and nuance, in a raptly observant prose that’s matter-of-fact but infused with mordant wit
and occasional flights of hallucinatory fancy. The result is a gripping read that spins painful experience into deeply satisfying literature.
An affecting memoir of dysfunction in a fragmented life that gains clarity and grace in its telling.
Kirkus Reviews • Juggle and Hide • July 18, 2014
Be prepared to read this book in one sitting. Once begun, it won’t let you go until the very last page. Ranging from wistful to gut-wrenching to absurd, the narrative is lightened considerably by the author’s innate sense of humor regarding her world and its inhabitants. It’s a wild ride and I enjoyed it immensely. (Amazon, D.M. Francis)
Though heartbreak abounds in this story of growing up with a mentally ill mother and a mostly-absent father, the author’s delivery is always filled with spunk and humor, making it a joy to read the book. Because van Ivan worked in the film industry, there are lots of juicy asides too. At points in the story it looks like van Ivan is destined to repeat the mistakes of the adults in her life and head down the path to (self) destruction. But while she is on that path, who does she come across (over and over again, as it happens, so that the reader suspects the intervention of fate) but a young painter who will become one of the most well-repected artists of our time. Will their relationship bring them both down or save them both? This is a thrilling read; you’ll want to learn the answer for yourself. (Amazon, Joan Schweighardt)
How many of us have thought we had the market cornered on an unhappy childhood? But then again how many of us wished we were dead at age 7? As children we don’t compare our traumas with each other, it is only when we become adults that a full appraisal is taken.The measurement never equates though. Horrible childhoods have resulted in miraculous outcomes and mediocre traumas have set people back a lifetime. One never knows. When it often times just takes one person to guide and mentor us in life, just one person to show us the ropes, Sharon had no one. Snap, crackle, pop are the sounds of falling apart; stale beer, booze and vomit are the tastes and smells. The feelings are that of loneliness when no one is on the other end, and there is no hope for the future. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put (Kathleen)(Sharon) back together again. The book cover is Kathleen, the book cover is Sharon, shattered and reassembled, whole for the most part through the help of her psychologist, but damaged just the same. Juggling acting roles and hiding behind booze she never had the chance to come into her own until she met her future husband, the artist, Charles Pfahl. The writing flows and carries us along wishing for more. We feel sorry for her, we applaud her, and we rally around her. She spent much of her youth taking care of family members, and now after the death of the love of her life, we wonder how she will handle the greatest challenge of all–taking care of herself? (Amazon, Christina)
It is rare that I find a book as compelling a read as Juggle and Hide…I could not stop reading it.in fact, I read this captivating memoir in one sitting. Sharon is a beautiful and gifted storyteller. Her story is told with insight and openness. I highly recommend! (Amazon, Tricia N.)
Wow! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I never expected such raw and candid revelations. I was reading Sharon van Ivan’s memoir on a plane, and gladly gave up the movies and all conversation to finish Juggle and Hide. van Ivan went through alcohol-and-drug hell and lives to tell about it beautifully. She can be very subtle: often dropping into the narrative hugely important details days or even years later–to devastating effect. Instead of telling us that a character was deeply flawed, she shows us with a few conversational tidbits, relayed casually, with the same gravity as if she was ordering a glass of wine. But by the time we are done reading about this very colorful cast of sometimes sweet, often poisonous characters floating in and out of Sharon’s world, we feel we’ve met them before–we know their kind. At times one wonders if/how Sharon will survive growing up and becoming an adult in that atmosphere. And of course she does survive–she comes through the hellfire a stronger and more complex person. With such a colorful past, her next adventures are assured to be page-turners. (Amazon, Jebalucas)
…to read the next volume! Sharon has written an honest, courageous, page-turner of a memoir, episodes of which should be recognizable to anyone whose life has ever defied convention. The reader is taken on a vertiginous roller-coaster ride where feelings of joy and pain are constant companions. Her writing is suffused with surprising empathy for the tragic figures in her life, and an abundance of sensuality and love for her saviors. She can’t help but find humor lurking around the darkest corners of her journey, a journey that I hope continues for decades to come.
(Amazon, LIC Movie Buff)
This memoir by Sharon Van Ivan was beautiful, cinematic, and profound in a simple and honest way. I laughed and cried, and couldn’t put it down. It was so honest and moving and an inspiring story about recovery and loving despite everything pushing you in the opposite direction. It gave me great hope that love, and learning to love, conquers all and is the only important thing in life.
(Amazon, Heather Trost)