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In Pieces

Sally Field

Conversation Starters

By Paul Adams

Book Habits

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Copyright © 2019 by BookHabits. All Rights Reserved. First Published in the United States of America 2019

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Table of Contents

Introducing In Pieces

Discussion Questions

Introducing the Author

Fireside Questions

Quiz Questions

Quiz Answers

Ways to Continue Your Reading

Introducing In Pieces

In Pieces is a memoir written by award-winning actress Sally Field. The book features the highs and lows of her career as a Hollywood actress and gives readers behind-the-scenes look into her important relationships with her mother, her grandmother and the other women in her family. While the women play significant roles in her life, she reveals her struggles to be respected and acknowledged by the men who drew close to her, including her husbands and the actor Burt Reynolds. She talks about a lonely childhood and her acting vocation that enabled her to express herself. The book also reveals her most heart-breaking moments including the molestation she suffered in the hands of her stepfather and the realization that her mother knew about it, her abortion at the age of 17, and an eating disorder that came with feelings of loneliness. The book includes the story of how she raised her three sons and how her two marriages eventually led to divorce.

She dedicates the book to her three sons and all of their children. A photo of her mother holding her when she was a baby is shown next to the dedication page. The prologue describes the scene where she first acted in a classroom play as a 12-year-old. She shares her memories of the place, a hospital turned into a classroom, and how she felt playing the role of a girl who turned her back against a boy. The prologue also tells how she started acting in school and how she craved for her mother’s approval of her very first stage performance in school.

The first chapter introduces the women who played important roles in her life. Margaret Morlan, her actress-mother is described by her as a beautiful woman who left Field's father when she was three years old. Her grandmother Joy is a woman who, ironically, rarely smiled. It was Joy's presence that created a rock-sturdy strength in Field, though she was not expressive of her love with hugs and kisses. The other women who helped raise her were her grandmother's sister Gladys and their mother, Field's great-grandmother Mimmie. Field tells the story of how these women helped her through her difficult childhood and her years as a young woman faced with challenging life situations which included her acting career. Aside from the theme of women's nurturing presence, Field's story is marked by the theme of men's imposing and controlling presence in her life. The men who got close to her demanded that she play a second role to them and that she give up her own desires and needs in order to please them. One of these men was her stepfather, Jock Mahoney, who repeatedly molested her as a young girl. Field's conflicting feelings about Mahoney is revealed which is typical of women who were abused by somebody they loved. She attempts to excuse his behavior but also questions if his behavior was his way of loving her. The book shows how her childhood and her personality have been fragmented because of this experience. The book's title alludes to the different fragments of her personality that seemed to be in conflict with each other. This influenced and affected her relationships with other men as well as her career. Field tells stories of how she experienced repeated sexual harassment from men in her profession and those she married and loved. The Monkees teased her with humiliating sexual jokes while they filmed the movie "The Flying Nun." Director Bob Rafaelson accordingly suggested she show her naked upper body to him in order to convince him of her getting the role. Actor Burt Reynolds, who became her boyfriend, did not appreciate her talent and demanded she put him first over her career. Field says she gave in to the demands of the men who put her down. "I eliminated most of me…becoming a familiar, shadowy version of myself…" But she was also brave enough to put a stop to the abusive behavior. When she won the lead role for the movie Norma Rae, Reynolds wanted her to drop it. This time Field fought for it and defended her decision to do the role. She went on to win the Oscar's best actress award. This steely part of Field is seen in the roles she played in the movies but unknown to her fans, it is a characteristic that she did not always perform in real life. She played strong women characters in the films Places in the Heart, Steel Magnolias, Absence of Malice, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Her honesty in writing about herself is shown in the book. Cited by critics for its "raw honesty and pitch-perfect prose" told in a first-person voice, she acknowledges that she was not always present in her sons' lives and that she was not always patient with her mother who helped her take care of her sons. The book provides numerous black and white faded photos of Field as a baby, a toddler, her childhood years with her siblings and family.

Booklist’s review says Field writes in a “soulful, wryly witty, and lyrical” manner. She is also cited for courage and honesty. The book shows the experiences that provided her the source for her deeply felt and empathic performances. The review says these lie behind her being a “powerful artist.” USA Today says the memoir is shocking in its frankness which is rare among celebrities who write their memoirs. The New York Times Book Review says the book is outstanding in its “clarity and grace.” It tells readers not to expect a Sally Field who is “plucky and desperate to be liked.” Field is praised for her courageous “act of personal investigation.” The Atlantic Journal-Consitution review says Field shows her vulnerable side. It is “the opposite of a self-aggrandizing, celebrity biography…” The New York Magazine review says the memoir is “a classic in the making.” It predicts the book’s long-lasting effect in the field of memoir publishing.

In Pieces is written by Field who won three Emmy and two Oscar awards. She is known for her roles in the films Norma Rae and Steel Magnolias. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012 and is a 2015 National Medal of Arts awardee.

Discussion Questions

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