Reviewed by Ian Lipke
“You could be alone in the dark and be immersed in the light… you could always see the theatre and everyone in it – the flaws, the dirt, the empty food containers, the reality of it all…Call it what makes your heart sing; but call it with love, because that light will lift you, cleanse you, and save you. It is the beauty of living twice” (236-237).
As one would anticipate, Sharon Stone uses two senses of light to introduce her book. Light reveals all, and light comes to all who seek. Film stars spend their days in manipulating and observing the revelations of light; some see light as insight. Sharon Stone has been involved with movies almost all her life and it is fitting that her book details, her experiences with the medium of light, and explores her ‘living twice’ experience.
Stone’s book is an autobiography which begins with a quotation from Emily Dickinson ‘Because I could not stop for Death’. This is appropriate since Stone did not stop either when she suffered a massive stroke that cost her, not only her health, but her career, family, fortune, and global fame. Over a long period, she gradually and painfully rebuilt her life, making it a success just as memorable as the glittering heights of movie stardom. Stone would not be silenced. She found the power within her to rebuild her life, gained the courage to speak up, doing her utmost to make a difference to women and children across the globe. Her story captures this spirit in a well-crafted, thoroughly readable book.
Some of her anecdotes are, by their very uniqueness, worthy of being called classic. She tells the story of a time when she was lying, severely injured, in hospital. Her grandmother told her whatever you do don’t move your neck. But grandmother was thirty years dead. Nevertheless, she followed grandmother’s advice, stuffed a teddy bear around her neck and lay still all night. Despite opposition from the nurses, her insistence on another angiogram saved her life. That ‘second look’ revealed that the right vertebral artery was torn to a fine shred and would have been severed, if she had turned her head to the right.
Stone was born in Amish country, a part of Pennsylvania. The stories she tells of her youth are brushed with ‘real life’ incidents, of blame swiftly allotted and punishment assured. She describes an instance of an accident involving her seven-year-old brother. “Trying to catch him and think of my alibi [sic!] all at the same time…He fell on the floor like a dumpling… My mum ran into the room. ‘Jesus Christ, I can’t leave you alone for a goddam minute, what the hell are you doing?” (25). Such was Sharon Stone’s childhood.
The actions of her teachers at school, by today’s standards, were atrocious. Her experiences in first and second grade with people uncomfortably ignorant in their profession makes uneasy reading.
There are many instances of Stone being able to place herself in another’s shoes. Children who were beaten into submission by their fathers found a ready ear with Stone. As she grew into her twenties she came to identify with the old Irish toast, “I’m more of who I am now than I was when I got here” (38). She had the wit to joke about her first sexual encounter with the opposite sex. She was in the first grade.
She describes her grandmother as belonging to a gang of kooks for friends. It was granny who taught her how to be a pickpocket and how to steal things off a table-top without being caught. Such incidents reveal the character of Sharon Stone before her stroke.
Stone’s second life appeared headed for tragedy. Her friends abandoned her. Her battle back to health was difficult and lonely, guided by her father’s maxim, “just make sure you keep getting up to bat, honey” (82). It is when narrating this section that the author reveals a sensitive touch. Non-maudlin was the tone that was needed to match Stone’s frame of mind. She describes in detail her success in ‘getting up to bat’ and in so doing reveals how much of a fighter she really is. Having recovered she worked alongside Madonna and the Dalai Lama in raising funds to fight the disease HIV/AIDS. Her stories keep coming.
The comprehensive information she provides in her biography, her brush with death, for whom she would not wait, opened out into a second life as challenging and as beautiful as the first. She claims, “I have learned to forgive the unforgivable. My hope is that as I share my journey, you too will learn to do the same” (235).
by Sharon Stone
Allen & Unwin