book review: shockaholic by carrie fisher

Shockaholic is an autobiographical humor book by American actress and author Carrie Fisher, published by Simon & Schuster in 2011.  It is Fisher’s second memoir.

Category:  Autobiography/Memoir

Publisher’s Summary:  Infused with Carrie Fisher’s trademark incisive wit and on the heels of Wishful Drinking’s instant New York Times bestselling success, Shockaholic takes readers on another rollicking ride into her crazy life.

There is no shortage of people flocking to hear what Princess Leia has to say. Her previous hardcover, Wishful Drinking, was an instant New York Times bestseller and Carrie was featured everywhere on broadcast media and received rave reviews from coast to coast, including People (4 stars; one of their top 10 books of the year), Entertainment Weekly, New York Times, and scores of others.

Told with the same intimate style, brutal honesty, and uproarious wisdom that placed Wishful Drinking on the New York Times bestseller list for months, Shockaholic is the juicy account of Carrie Fisher’s life, focusing more on the Star Wars years and dishing about the various Hollywood relationships she’s formed since she was chosen to play Princess Leia at only nineteen years old. Fisher delves into the gritty details that made the movie—and herself—such a phenomenal success, admitting, “It isn’t all sweetness and light sabers.”

Review:  After hearing the story of her waking up next to a dead friend in Wishful Drinking, we hear more of the emotional and mental aftermath in Shockaholic.  The trauma of the situation led Fisher to renew her drug habit, and while I haven’t had substance abuse problems like she has nor have I woken up next to a dead friend, I can relate to the mental health side of things, which makes her emotional processes here very relatable to me.  Her constant thoughts about the impact of her behavior on her daughter Billie were both touching and heartbreaking, and I am glad that she was so open and honest about the electroconvulsive therapy and what it has done for her.  The more people with mental health struggles speak out about their diagnoses, treatments, situations, and circumstances, the more we may be able to break the stigma that surrounds mental illness in this country.

There are plenty of great stories in here.  From Bob Dylan calling her to ask her what would be good names for cologne to Elizabeth Taylor shoving her into a pool, Fisher shares these anecdotes in a funny, refreshing way that is uniquely her own.   There are more profound moments as well, such as Fisher sharing her thoughts and memories on Michael Jackson and the situations and circumstances that surrounded him while framing it with the story of spending his last Christmas Eve together with him and his children.  Her stories of Paul Simon and their relationship were witty, the ones of her stepfather Harry were quite funny, and the tale of her dinner with Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, and a few others was absolutely fantastic to read.

The story that got to me the most though was the theme that ran throughout the book, and that was Fisher’s relationship with her father, Eddie Fisher.  From not liking him very much to becoming drug buddies to their relationship during the final months of his life, Fisher gives an emotional yet honest take on growing up with a father who had left before she was the age of three and sort of floated around the peripheral of her existence for years afterward.  It’s a difficult to understand relationship while at the same time being a sign of how people grow emotionally as they grow older.  And Fisher’s final reflections on her now deceased father are touching and poignant.

And the Star Wars stories.  Who doesn’t love Star Wars stories?

Recommendation: I miss Carrie Fisher so much.  Her brutal honesty and insightful wisdom and tremendous wit are on display here once again, and while Wishful Drinking was perhaps funnier overall, there are moments in this book that had me laughing hysterically (see: her fake commercial for a fake psych drug).  She also speaks more about her experiences with electroconvulsive therapy and what led her to the decision to have it, and to the mental health struggles and substance abuse problems that she’d struggled with for the majority of her adult life.  Because of all of these reasons, to me, Shockaholic is an essential read.

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