The Point of No Return
By: Ella Berman
Many of the shows that I watched as a kid starred a child actor who grew up to suffer from psychological issues from becoming famous at such a young age. So many of them turned to drugs or reckless behavior in order to deal with the demons of their younger years. Some of the first that come to mind are the Corey’s (Corey Haim and Corey Feldman), River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy, and Lindsay Lohan. Then there are the troubled kids who battled their demons and made a comeback, like Robert Downey Jr. a.k.a. Iron Man, and Drew Barrymore.
It’s no surprise that child stars turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to manage anxiety and the strains of early stardom. These kids are given enormous responsibilities from an early age and put into extremely stressful situations. In many cases, they are on the road without their parents and are thrust into the spotlight with no coping mechanisms. They see and hear things that no child should see at a young age. Because of all of these factors, they grow up way too quickly and never really experience childhood.
Sometimes you never hear about them or see them again. Some stay famous while others hide in the shadows. Others die from reckless behavior and choices. Behind the glitz and glamour, the life of a child actor isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
The novel I chose this week is The Comeback by Ella Berman. This novel clearly shows the stress, manipulation, and neglect of the main character, Grace Turner. Grace is a child actor discovered in England at the age of 13. She comes to America, uproots her whole family and works with one director, the one who said he would make her a star; Able Yorke. Able does make her a big star, starting out with a three-movie deal. He also physically and emotionally abuses Grace the entire time. While the years of movie-making and abuse simultaneously take place, he tells her parents that he will care for her as if she were his own. By the age of 21, Grace is addicted to vodka, pills, and any other drug she can get her hands on.
“I’d like to say that I didn’t understand what I was agreeing to, but I think it would be a lie – even back then I knew I was giving a part of myself away.”
While this might sound like something right out of Harvey Weinstein’s playbook, the author says that she started this novel long before The New York Times released the story that started the #MeToo movement. Grace’s story is just one of many, but it is one that I wanted to hear from page one.
On the eve of her first Golden Globes ceremony, Grace Turner disappears from her abusive and addictive life. We meet Grace almost a year after this escape after she has had a breakdown at 21. She has escaped to her parent’s home in Anaheim and has no plans of ever returning to Hollywood. You slowly learn her tale as she narrates her story back to the reader. The story goes back and forth between the present time and Grace’s recollection of her rise to stardom.
You can’t help but wonder why this beautiful young woman with her whole life and career ahead of her is self-destructing? It isn’t until she slowly tells her story, that you begin to understand. Able Yorke controlled her life, controlled her career, kept her from her family, while all under the auspices that he was doing what was best for her and her career.
But this novel is not only about her downfall, it is also about her attempt to come back from the lowest point of her own personal hell. How do you come back from the point of no return? Because Grace lived on a set from the age of 13, she doesn’t know how to be a regular person in a ordinary life, living in a house, and taking care of herself. She has always had people taking care of her, but since the age of 13, it was never her own parents. Moving back home at age 21 takes a lot of adjusting. There is certainly resentment on both sides. She resents her parents for neglecting her, and they resent her for abandoning them. The year she spends with them is a time to rebuild their relationship.
“When I’m being honest with myself, I understand that I only came back here because I knew it would be like this – that as much as I don’t know how to ask for anything, my family also wouldn’t know how to give it to me.”
Unfortunately, it’s never that easy to just wake up and fix everything, and Grace must face her own demons in order to try and rehabilitate the mess of her life. The whole time I was reading this book I wondered if this would be a cautionary tale or a true comeback. Will Grace Turner be a Brittany Murphy or a Drew Barrymore? While the ending may not be what you had hoped for, it’s an empowering story about a woman who wants to change the course of her life.
By: Ella Berman
Publication Date: August 3, 2020