The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Love Child, by Allegra Huston

This is a “poor little rich girl” memoir. But … wow! There’s a reason I tagged this review with “child neglect.” Allegra Huston, born into the family of legendary film director John Huston but not his biological child, had less stability in her life than your average house cat. And yet she writes so clearly and even lovingly of the people in her family that it makes me wonder where she learned to be so forgiving and understanding. She’s an amazing person, and her story is worth reading.

The foundation of Allegra’s problems was the early death of her mother, Ricki Soma Huston, who died in a car accident when Allegra was 4 years old. No one then stepped forward and stated that they would be responsible for the child until she was an adult. Or they may have said they’d be responsible, but they didn’t follow through. She was passed around as if she was a forgotten heirloom that no one could figure out where to store. I do have to give a pass to Anjelica Huston, who, as a sibling, shouldn’t have had to get involved. She was about 13 or 14 years older than Allegra and, as a young woman with a complicated modeling and acting career, had her own issues. And yet in the swirl of all this, she sporadically took care of her sister. Jack Nicholson, Anjelica’s on-and-off lover, seemed to understand the situation and apparently treated Allegra well. Ryan O’Neal, who comes across as an abusive, coked-up jackass, as well as Anjelica’s biggest mistake, is the biggest jerk in the entire memoir. A child should never have been exposed to him.

But … where was John Huston in all this? Hither and yon, evidently playing the Daddy role when it suited him and mostly being a slightly-better-than-adequate father to a child he knew wasn’t his. He also occasionally forgot about Allegra. In fact, her most stable home during childhood was with Celeste (Cici) Shane, one of John Huston’s ex-wives and the only person who seemed to “get it” — possibly because she had a child of her own.

And yet after being passed around like a foster child in a dysfunctional system, Allegra turned out to be a seemingly level-headed person who just spelled out what happened without passing judgment. While her childhood need for the stable home she lacked is palpable, she manages to withhold blame and just report the facts as she saw them. If she learned anything from the experience, it was to value her own strengths and move on from disappointment.

So of course I highly recommend this book by this uncommonly resilient woman. It’s entertaining while also providing a glimpse of human foibles.

As for animals mentioned in the book, John Huston liked dogs, Allegra’s brother Tony kept falcons for which Allegra had great compassion, the family kept horses the way rich people often do, there was a Siamese cat and a kitten who ran away, and her father had a few exotic pets. So this book is SAFE for animal lovers. Enjoy!

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August 17, 2010 - Posted by | autobiography, beach book, Book Reviews, families, memoir | , , , , , , , , , ,

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