Review: A Hemingway makes sense of her family's troubles

AP News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2015 10:30 AM
Review: A Hemingway makes sense of her family's troubles

"Out Came the Sun" (Regan Arts), by Mariel Hemingway.

Born into one of America's best-known families, Mariel Hemingway grew up with the advantages of sharing the name of her grandfather Ernest Hemingway and the burden of growing up in a family at least as dysfunctional as it was famous.

"Out Came the Sun" is her memoir of growing up Hemingway, flirting with an intermittently successful film career, a number of difficult relationships and finally of finding her own voice — a progression toward self-awareness evident in the strength of writing later in her book.

Mariel Hemingway writes of the surreal experience of attending first grade at Ernest Hemingway Elementary School as she was growing up in Idaho, and how some classmates reacted with resentment once they made the family connection. She writes of tensions in her parents' marriage often made worse with bouts of drinking.

While growing up, Mariel Hemingway eventually learned that about five months before she was born, her famous grandfather, living in Idaho at the time, shot himself in the head with his shotgun at age 61. This was one of several suicides in the Hemingway family, including the writer's father, Clarence, and brother, Leicester.

"Throughout my life, people have spoken of the Hemingway curse," she writes, referring to issues like alcoholism, mental illness and suicide. "It was a nasty word that suggested a lack of control."

One sister, nicknamed Muffet, suffered from mental illness, and another, Margot, overcame her disorganization and insecurity to become one of the nation's top supermodels, later known as Margaux, who got a chance at acting in movies, but never broke through. Margaux got a role in the 1976 thriller "Lipstick," that also provided a role for her younger sister, Mariel. Ironically, Mariel got the better reviews.

Mariel got a break when Woody Allen offered her the role of Tracy, a high school student and Allen's lover in the movie "Manhattan." She received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress, and seemed on her way to a promising film career. She writes that "Manhattan" did wonders for her confidence and "helped strengthen my still-fragile self-image." She became close friends with Allen while making the movie, and he later visited her at her family home in Idaho and even invited her to Paris, but Hemingway turned down his request.

Hemingway got several other roles in movies, but seldom matched the success she had in "Manhattan." And her string of personal relationships ranged from a liaison with filmmaker Robert Towne, fending off advances from director Bob Fosse and a sometimes difficult marriage that gave her two children, but finally dissolved after she and her husband had been together for 25 years.

When she got another offer to be in a Woody Allen film, "Deconstructing Harry," almost two decades later, she was crushed to learn that it was a very small part. "I had dreamed that Woody would relaunch me in my thirties as he had launched me in my teens," she writes, "but instead the experience just seemed to prove that I was destined to be out on the margins of the film world."

The 1996 suicide of her sister Margaux and the death of her father several years later caused Mariel Hemingway to take stock of her family's troubles and reflect on why she should tell that story. She helped make a documentary examining her family's troubles — "Running From Crazy" — and she wrote this memoir.

"Everyone needs to take control of his or her life by making sense of it," she writes. And as she examined her own family's troubles she became increasingly aware of how many people have to overcome such troubles.

She is sometimes asked: "What is it like to be part of the Hemingway family?" But she writes that she "spends much more time thinking about what it is like to be part of the much broader family of flawed, hopeful, intermittently improving humans."

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Will Lester is an editor in the AP's Washington bureau.

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Follow Will Lester on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/wjlester

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Online:

http://marielhemingway.com/