Melissa Francis was a child actor who landed a role of a lifetime at the young age of eight. She played a role in the long running television series Little House on the Prairie starring Michael Landon and many other stars. By the time she got the role, she was a seasoned child actor managed by a stage mother from hell.
Francis tells all in her new book, Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter. She had an older sister who also tried acting. The sister did not land the type of roles that Francis did and became the disappointment of her mother’s eye. Tiffany, the older sister, was neglected and almost abandoned by her mother. The only attention she received was criticism.
Some people seem born and destined to live a big life and thrive under the pressures that come with a big life, much like Melissa. Others, like Tiffany, who try to capture such a life, bend and break under the pressure.
Francis writes a compelling book that gets the reader’s attention starting on page one. She writes, “She pulled to the side of the road and told me to get out. “Find your own way home. And another place to call home while you’re at it.” With a deep breath, I pushed the release button on my seatbelt and slowly tumbled out. This had been coming for almost a year. I almost welcomed it.”
Francis, who was eight at the time of the incident, had watched her mother pull the same antics on her sister Tiffany for a number of years. The book offers stories like this of continued physical and mental abuse from the mother. She details how her mother pushed her and her sister to be perfect, look perfect, and act perfect.
Francis also tells of how her mother managed the money in the family and how she accuses Francis of overspending all of the money she made from acting and residuals from commercials and reruns. The mother battles with depression throughout Francis’s life. In the end the mother disappears. She goes off to live with her own sister after taking all of the money in the family’s bank account, virtually leaving the father and the sister homeless and broke.
There are also stories of determination and perseverance. Tiffany goes to Berkeley and tries law school. Melissa Francis graduates Harvard with a degree in economics and begins a long career in television broadcasting. She also marries and has children.
Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter is well written and a riveting read. The author takes the reader through a life that appears exciting and perfect on the outside but is troubled on the inside, and she does so in a can’t-put-the-book-down fashion.