Before I start writing a review of Tina Sloan's book, Changing Shoes, let's get a couple of things out of the way:
1. I'm a life-long fan of soaps
2. Being a life-long fan of soaps, I've watched Tina Sloan and been a fan of hers since her days on
3. Having interviewed Tina and interacted with her on a personal level, I find her to be a gracious,
charming, lovely person.
4. None of these things would make me give a book a positive review if it didn't deserve it. Books play way
too much of an important role in my life for me to take a dive, so to speak.
With that out of the way, let's get on to the subject at hand: Changing Shoes. For a year or so friends and fans of Tina Sloan have heard about the book she was working on. Some folks had the advantage of having seen the one-woman show the book is based on, and had an idea what was in store for them. I haven't caught Tina's show. All I knew about Changing Shoes was what Tina had told me when I interviewed her, and what she's shared about it on Facebook and Twitter. I wasn't really sure if I'd be reading a memoir, a self-help book, a tell-all expose'...or what. At various times during the past year, Tina has spoken about her aging parents, her days as a model and young actress, the changes that she has undergone as she's aged, her time on the set of movies and television shows, her relationships with family and friends...and she's talked about them in the context of Changing Shoes. For a while there I found myself thinking, "What in the world is this book going to be about? What can the narrative voice possibly be, if not schizophrenic?" As most of you know, the book was released last week and, if you're anything like me, you devoured it in record time.
Everyone has interesting things in their life. I mean it. Everyone. Every life is full of funny or sad or ironic stories, coincidences, accidents, tragedies, etc. For the most part, this doesn't amount to much. Having a good story and being able to tell a good story - these are two very different things. Tina Sloan not only has a treasure trove of good stories, she's one hell of a storyteller. In answer to my own question - "What can the narrative voice of Changing Shoes be...?" - reading Changing Shoes feels like meeting a good friend at a favorite coffee house, sitting down on a comfy couch, and asking her, "How on earth did you get from where you started to where you are today?"
The section of Changing Shoes which deals with Tina's parents and their last years was something I found especially moving. It's an important story she tells, of having to cope with the mixed emotions that the failing health of a parent can bring. Most people are afraid to talk about how frustrating it can be to watch our parents get old, or how guilt drives a lot of what we do,when it comes to caring for them. Still fewer people are able to discuss the inevitable feeling of relief that comes when a person who has lived with prolonged illness finally dies. It's something we all experience, but it's something of a taboo. Having recently lost my mother, this section of the book was painful, but also a catharsis. While I miss my mother terribly, I've also experienced a sense of relief since she passed; no longer do I worry that every late-night phone call is THE phone call I've dreaded. Tina discusses this frankly - the fact that loving one's parents and being devoted to them does not make caring for them an absolute joy, and that the range of emotions that comes with this experience is not only natural, but universal.
I realize this may not be the most interesting book review, as I have nothing but good things to say about Changing Shoes. It's well written. It's touching. It's funny. It's juicy. It's full of homespun wisdom about things you never thought you'd hear homespun wisdom about. Tina Sloan will not tell you how to make a perfect pie crust, but she will give you tips on the best hormonal supplements to take if you want to kick up a sagging libido, but don't want to grow a moustache. You don't get that kind of advice every day.