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Review of Drew Barrymore's Wildflowers




“Seagulls, Unicorns, and Wildflowers: Social butterfly narrative of a childhood lost but later life reclaimed.”

 Firstly this isn’t an autobiography or a memoir; it’s a collection of twenty-eight short anecdotes, essays or musings about everything from Drew Barrymore’s E.T. audition to sky-diving with Cameron Diaz.

What the essays lack in depth, they make up for in range, as we zig zag through Drew’s life, pausing for a minute, then time travelling again to another intersection of her life. As a narrator, she is a social butterfly, never stopping long enough for the reader to really grasp the purpose of each short chapter.

Drew has certainly had an interesting life; there is no shortage of rich material for a fascinating memoir. She was in the worldwide box office smash film E.T. aged six, emancipated from her mum aged fourteen and visited Kenya with The World Food Program in her thirties.

There are areas where Drew doesn’t elaborate or she glosses over; these are the areas though that would have produced more powerful writing. After the birth of her first daughter Frankie, she mentions briefly that she had postpartum depression but she doesn't explain how this affected her bond or if anything helped her through this difficult experience. It’s as if Drew knows that one day her daughters will read this book, so mutes her true emotions. Possibly the true extent of her depression is too difficult to articulate at this stage but here enters an uneasy dilemma; celebrities by virtue of being in the public eye have access to pivotal media exposure. By sharing her story, allowing that vulnerability to show, she could help thousands of women throughout the world experiencing this stigmatised illness, just by writing and not hiding it.

The same mute emotions are used when describing the collective effect of a controlling neglectful mum and an absent but volatile dad. “My mother and father were both incapable of being parents but I don’t fault them for it- my therapist would disagree,” she explains. In letting her parents off the hook, seemingly her therapist got all the good material and in doing so, the therapist becomes the voice of reason. The transcripts from those therapy sessions would make more powerful reading; the raw emotions would spill out, we would hear the rage rather than the less convincing forgiveness.

She describes how her mum often forgot to give her a packed lunch and she had to beg for food from other children during lunch break. She described herself as a seagull, “I stare at other people’s plates with jealousy and curiosity.” Her dad looked like Kurt Cobain in the “Joshua Tree” section and she describes him as, “A mythical creature- part unicorn, part violent storm.” Instead of inviting us into her world, she hides behind metaphors and we’re left wanting to know more.

The most touching sections of the book is regarding her daughters, “My heart grew bigger the day you were born”, and there is an overwhelming sense that she is a survivor, that this lost child-star somehow became a wildflower who flourished.

It’s just a shame that she didn’t take a risk with this book, like her earlier book, “Little Girl Lost, published when she was fifteen and much more candid about her experiences of drink and drugs. There’s a sense that she feels the need to prove that despite everything, she is positive about life. Most of her chapters end with resounding sunny soundbites, which though commendable leave you feeling short-changed.


Written by Liz Dickinson


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