Published by Penguin Group on September 13, 2016
Genres/Lists: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Length: 7 hrs, 22 mins
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
At a young age, Mara Wilson became a Hollywood darling. She is perhaps best known for her role as Matilda, the movie that inspired book memes and gifs around the world, but she also rose to fame in Mrs. Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street. Unlike many child stars, Mara did not go down the path of self-destruction via drugs, sex, and alcohol, but her time as a child actress was not without its difficulties. Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame is Wilson’s own account of the struggles she endured, how she learned to cope, and what Matilda means to her.
Where Am I Now? is not a memoir so much as it is a book of essays. Rather than telling her story in chronological order, the book is broken down into essays by topic, some of which focus on a snapshot of time and others that span her entire life. It is both laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreaking, so if you pick this one up, expect to feel the full spectrum of emotions. In it, she opens about her mother’s death during post-production of Matilda, people who want to get drunk with Matilda, what Robin Williams meant to her, and her preoccupation with death.
That said, anxiety and OCD, serves as a common theme throughout most of the essays. As someone who also suffers from both, I found her articulation of how they affect your everyday life and relationships to be spot-on. While I will never know how they played into her career as an actress, I do understand how they can impact everything you do and say and I’m glad that she, too, ultimately found a way to cope. There’s a heartbreaking story about how awful some of the girls were to her in middle school, something I can relate to, and I know that her anxiety only amplified that experience and my heart goes out to her.
She also spent a good bit of her life uncomfortable with sex. It was a bit weird to listen to Mara talk about this topic because I, like many, associate her with Matilda, but once the initial shock wore off it was quite interesting. She bluntly discusses how her time on Melrose Place affected how she viewed sex and, frankly, I can see why that show would warp her perspective. Considering she also had to wear a sports bra for Thomas and the Magic Railroad because she sprouted breasts, it’s not surprising that her relationship with her own sexual development was complicated.Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson is a hilarious and heartbreaking reminder that she is not Matilda. Highly recommended. Click To Tweet
As she got older, Mara began looking for a new path in life. Although she lost several roles to Kristen Stewart, she admits that her heart was no longer in acting. By middle and high school, she had moved onto other pursuits, including art classes, the school choir, and a brief stint as a cheerleader. She went on to NYU and found that New York was the place for her and has, from what I can tell, remained there ever since.
Perhaps most telling for Matilda fans is her essay written in the form of a letter to Matilda. In it, she shares funny stories about the filming of the movie, but also the pitfalls of being associated with one character forever. There were times when, as an adult, people wanted to hang out with her because she was Matilda, not because she was Mara, and breaking free of that association was, and is, difficult. While we all know that actors are real people with their own lives, I’m sure that many of us associate Mara with Matilda and this book serves as a reminder to separate the two. Mara’s struggles are very real and relatable and deserve as much, if not more, attention that the role she played as a child. Because the role we love so dearly exacted such a toll on Mara, we owe it to her to respect her independently of her character.
Today, Mara is in a great place. Her anxiety is under control but, more importantly, she’s made peace with how Matilda shaped her life. At no point in time did I think she regretted the role, but that doesn’t mean the difficulties weren’t real. A born storyteller with an active imagination, Mara now spends her time writing and working with the stage, both as an actress and a playwright. So although she grew up with a tooth fairy named Sally (for Sally Field in Mrs. Doubtfire) and has her childhood films copy written by 21st Century Fox, she’s just like us – a Lady Gaga fan who shops at Bed, Bath & Beyond (although I do take issue with her dismissal of Britney Spears).
Recommended for: Everyone who associates Mara with Matilda.