May 3, 2018

[Books] Born With Teeth: A Memoir Audible Review

During the height of my excitement over discovering the relative joys of listening to memoirs read by their author-subjects, I picked up Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew because of course I would. I had worked my way through Carrie Fisher's books and now wanted to further my exploration of the lives of people involved in my favorite stories.

Of course my main exposure to Kate Mulgrew was through her role as Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. She remains to be one of my favorite Star Trek captains and it seemed only natural to want to learn more about her in this manner.

But as always their on-screen characters hardly capture the essence of who these people really and this book was a bit of a revelation for me.

Synopsis:  Born With Teeth is a memoir by Kate Mulgrew published in 2015. This review coveres the Audible Audiobook edition of the work.

The book is a rather extensive coverage of Kate Mulgrew's life with several points of emphasis that keep coming back. First, we must remember that she was born Irish-Catholic and endured a good number of hardships growing up. Then we must remember that she decided early on that she wanted to be an actress and moved to New York in order to seriously pursure her craft. And lastly, Captain Janeway was but one of the many roles she has portrayed in her lifetime and hardly the last that she'll fulfill while she still breathes.

But her story is one that's filled with many of her highs and lows whether in terms of her immediate family, her career as an actress and her personal life. There is a particular moment that ends up defining the larger journey in the book - that of her giving up her fight child, her daughter, for adoption. It was a necesarry decision at the time but one that ends up haunting her over the years until she finds a way to move forward. It's pretty gripping.

What I Liked: The problem with knowing an actress mainly through a single role is that it's easy to assume that a lot of the character's personality applies to the person. In this case there are certain key things about that Janeway that are clearly true about Kate Mulgrew, and that just makes her all the more inspiring. She's the sort of actress who has taken her career very seriously and over the years she has made sure to select roles that have helped her to feel fulfilled or have helped her grow in her craft.

And she's the sort of stubborn individual who sticks to her principles when the cards are down and that has seen her through many personal tragedies in her life. This book nicely captures many of those moments in her life and so eloquently to, further reinforcing her appreciation for the written word. It's a very well put-together piece and hearing it in her own words adds a special dimension to the whole experience.

What Could Have Been Better: As is often the case with such memoirs, it takes a bit of time to fully appreciate the stories you're reading and the parts of someone's life that you're getting introduced to through the book. And so the first few chapters are insightful but a little rough to take on as she does go into a fair amount of detail about her family and her upbringing.

Then there's the guilty admission that I had hoped to hear more about her life as Captain Janeway on the set of Voyager. Of course it couldn't be helped given the other major events that took place in her life around the same time so her Star Trek work was just so much work and was thus relegated to the background. I had hoped for more insights into Janeway and how she had brought her to life but maybe that is best left to a behind the scenes piece about the series or something.

TL;DR: Born With Teeth is a rather detailed account of many, many highlights of Kate Mulgrew's life. As was the case with me, you may enter the experience knowing only Janeway but you will emerge on the other side better appreciating Kate. Thus the audio book gets a good 4 instances her being Irish-Catholic played into things out of a possible 5.

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