Review ~ Take Me Home from the Oscars

Take Me Home from the Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion, and Me by Christine Schwab

Cover via Goodreads

Driven to deceit by a career that celebrates beauty and fashion, lifestyle reporter Christine Schwab is not most people. She managed to keep her illness a secret for years, even as a recurring guest on Live with Regis & Kelly, Oprah!, The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, and elsewhere. She juggled her career with a thrilling personal life in Hollywood: married to Shelly Schwab, then the president of television distribution at Universal Studios, she traveled, dined with celebrities, and met presidents of the United States. How could she allow a devastating disease associated with aging and disfigurement to take over her life?

Rather than let it, she hid it—a skill learned well in childhood. In Take Me Home from the Oscars, Schwab openly speaks of her arthritis for the first time, looking to her past for clues of how she managed the deception, but also of lessons learned when she could no longer hide. Schwab’s voice is at once smart and friendly. The reader will root for her at every step, and cheer when, through medication, she ultimately finds remission. (via Goodreads)

I purchased this book thinking it would be the memoir of someone fashionable, living a glittery Hollywood lifestyle, who also has RA. The title refers to leaving the Oscars (the Oscars!) due to a particularly nasty flare-up. I wanted to be heartened by the story of someone living with this disease rather than someone suffering from it. That’s a distinction that is sometimes very fuzzy, but the distinction generally keeps me off of RA forums. Unfortunately, this book is very much about suffering. For the better part of twenty years, not only was Schwab feeling the physical symptoms, but also adding a walloping dose of guilt due to her deceptions.

Schwab’s memoir is incredibly repetitive. Every chapter, except perhaps the last one, contains a version of the following: I have this painful, crippling disease that’s associated with twisted, old people and if anyone finds out that I’m not perfect, I’m never ever going to work again, so I need to lie about it. It’s hard to say how justified the paranoia is. This is Hollywood after all, but some of her attitude might stem from the abandonment that Schwab feels has dogged her all her life. While the book is sprinkled with memories of her childhood, there isn’t really a resolution that pulls this story together. It didn’t seem like Schwab came to some peace about her condition. Instead it feels like since she’s now in remission and older, she can move from fashion maven to fashion maven *and* a face (but not hands) of rheumatoid arthritis. If this had been a tight 20K article, it probably would have had more impact. A better title might have been “Arthritis and Lies.”

I really can’t begrudge Christine Schwab her need to hide her illness, but there is one aspect to her narrative that made me wince. In her desperation to make it all go away, she was pretty cavalier with her medical treatments. She states several times that she didn’t want to know what the side effects of medications were. Even after having a very serious lung infection set off by one medication, she was still somewhat willfully ignorant. That really bugged me.

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir.
Why did I choose to read this book? I want to read stories of people living with this disease, but not suffering from it.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) I did, though I considered setting it aside a few times.
Craft Lessons: Get in, make your point, get out.
Format: Hardback.
Procurement: Amazon third party seller.
Bookmark: Bookmark made from a birthday card Tania sent me.

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