I don’t care about Roseanne Barr one way or the other. I only watched her show once in a great while growing up. But something drew me to the memoir her daughter just published. And what a story she has to tell.
“Growing up, Jenny Pentland’s life was a literal sitcom. Many of the storylines for her mother’s smash hit series, Roseanne, were drawn from Pentland’s early family life in working-class Denver. But that was only the beginning of the drama. Roseanne Barr’s success as a comedian catapulted the family from the Rockies to star-studded Hollywood–with its toxic culture of money, celebrity, and prying tabloids that was destabilizing for a child in grade school.
By adolescence, Jenny struggled with anxiety and eating issues. Her parents and new stepfather, struggling to help, responded by sending Jenny and her siblings on a grand tour of the self-help movement of the ’80s–from fat camps to brat camps, wilderness survival programs to drug rehab clinics (even though Jenny didn’t take drugs). Becoming an adult, all Jenny wanted was to get married and have kids, despite Roseanne’s admonishments not to limit herself to being just a wife and mother.
In this scathingly funny and moving memoir, Pentland reveals what it’s like to grow up as the daughter of a television star and how she navigated the turmoil, eventually finding her own path. Now happily married and raising five sons on a farm, Pentland has worked tirelessly to create the stable family she never had, while coming to terms at last with her deep-seated anxiety.”
This Will Be Funny Later: A Memoir (Amazon) is a must read, and I’m usually not one for memoirs of the unfamous. But the blurb I read was compelling, so much so that I burned an Audible credit to get the book. I was not disappointed. Pentland has led a very interesting life which she looks back on with humor and horror at the same time.
The stories Roseanne Barr crafted for her television show came straight from her home life, much to Pentland’s chagrin. When her mother moved the family to California from Colorado, she didn’t know what to expect. In a word, it was a s$%t show. Though she never specifically says it, Roseanne and her then husband were not the greatest of parents before they moved, and after their divorce and Roseanne’s marriage to comedian Tom Arnold, it got even worse.
Instead of dealing with her kids and their increasing troubles, Roseanne and Tom routinely shipped them off to fat farms, psych wards, wilderness camps and the like, to have someone else deal with the issues the kids were facing. And the things that happened to Pentland and other kids who faced a similar fate are at times shocking and unbelievable. An overhaul of the system had to happen, and I sure hope it has. But here’s the thing: Jenny Pentland has learned how to live with her screwed up childhood and tell it like it is with humor and grace and forgiveness for her mom. I don’t know that I could say the same if I went through all she did.
Surprisingly, even though Pentland is Roseanne Barr’s daughter, she doesn’t exactly spend a lot of time talking about her mom. She talks about her dad, Tom Arnold, her siblings and others, but she’s very careful about what she says about Barr. So even though this is a very raw and honest memoir, she’s still holding back a little because she still has a relationship with her mom. Maybe, through years of therapy, she’s found it best to just let go of her mother’s failings, which is what most kids should do when it comes to their parents.
All her life, the author just wanted to get married and have kids with no grand plans beyond that. Pentland’s life growing up and early adulthood were truly messed up, and it’s clear she’s come to peace with everything that happened to her. She has a husband and FIVE boys and lives in Hawaii, not far from her mom.
Don’t pick up this memoir if you’re a fan of Roseanne Barr. Pick up this memoir because you’re a fan of a well-written memoir that just so happens to have Barr as one of the many players in Pentland’s life. Her story is worth telling.
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