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Review of "Find Me"

By Rosie O'Donnell
Warner Books, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 13th 2002
Find Me

Find Me is not the usual celebrity memoir. Rosie O'Donnell does not set out her life starting at the beginning, the difficult early years, the struggle to the top, and then perhaps the problems of fame. Instead, the book is a reflection on an episode of her life, lasting maybe a year at most. It's short too; the unabridged audiobook, read by the author, lasts a mere 4 hours. O'Donnell's tone is muted, and her voice is intimate. She doesn't sound at all like the host of the daily syndicated Rosie O'Donnell Show; she does not sing, laugh, cheer, dress up, or gush about any movies, TV series, or even her children. She doesn't even lecture the listener about gun control. Instead, she talks about this time in her life, her bizarre dreams, some of her interactions with her friends, her employees, and her therapist. She also recalls some events and characters from her childhood; her granny, her father, and most of all, her mother, who died at the age of 38, when young Roseanne was just ten.

It's a good idea to get the audiobook, because if you just read the book, you will be too tempted to read it hearing Rosie's ebullient TV voice in your head. Some of the stories that she tells are probably ones she has told on her show ? how she would sneak into the second halves of Broadways shows when she was a teenager, how she got her stage name 'Rosie' rather than Roseanne ? but here she is subdued, melancholy even, and full of questions. There are plenty of events she probably she has not talked much about on her TV show ? her mother's death, her sleepless nights, and the discussions she had with TV executives about why she turned down the offer of millions of dollars to stay on as the host of her show. She says almost nothing about her sexuality, except that she hates her body. She mentions that she has a partner she lives with, and even mentions her name, but she makes no grand proclamations about it. In this book, it's not an issue.

The central story in Find Me is about O'Donnell's developing relationship with a 14-year-old girl, Stacie, and Stacie's mother, Barb. She learns about Stacie from her adoption agency. Stacie is pregnant, the result of a violent rape. O'Donnell feels the need to rescue people, a need to give, and she becomes ridiculously involved in some cases. She gives Stacie her home phone number, and eventually Stacie is calling her up in the middle of the night, several times, regularly, crying and scared about what is going to happen to her. Her friends tell her to distance herself, to get some perspective, to be aware of the possibility that Stacie and Barb are milking her for attention or even money. Then the plot twists, and becomes strangely reminiscent of Armistead Maupin's most recent book, The Night Listener. But Maupin's book is meant to be fiction (although maybe it isn't) and Find Me is meant to be fact.

The way O'Donnell tells it, her experience with Stacie is something of a turning point for her. She can't explain the logic of it, and it's never clear exactly why Stacie meant so much to her. But clearly it's something to do with identifying with the girl, and deep down, O'Donnell feels just as much a victim as Stacie. Deep within her, she is split, and that's an important fact about her. She feels she wants to return to a more normal life, and hates a great deal about the way fame has transformed her life. She no longer wants to host a national TV show. She does not want to be ?Rosie,' any more, but instead wants to be what her friends and family call her, 'Row,' or possibly some of the other names she uses; but not 'Rosie.' She's had enough. She wants to spend more time with her family, and work on projects that are more important to her. She has enough money, and does not need millions more.

O'Donnell comes across as cranky, neurotic, driven, self-deprecating, and very loving. The book seems genuine, and even if it is not a 'tell-all' confession, she reveals a great deal about herself. What's especially striking about Find Me is that is very well written, so either she has a natural talent or else she has got some great editors. Even though the tone is very different from her TV personality, she retains enough of her familiar quirks. At its best, the writing is sparse and careful, and manages to create a powerful sense of O'Donnell's turbulent emotions. She manages to make her story compelling reading without assuming that her fame entitles her to her readers' attention, and, as with her TV show, she does not go on longer than she should.

© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.

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