Terry's Reviews > All That Is Bitter And Sweet: A Memoir

All That Is Bitter And Sweet by Ashley Judd
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Jun 07, 2011

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bookshelves: memoir

This book is about 1/3 Ashley Judd's personal memoir and about 2/3rds a non-fiction book about third world countries and their struggles with population control, sexual and physical abuse of women, and sexually-related commerce and its dangers.

So if you're looking for a juicy, gossipy memoir, THIS IS NOT IT.

However, if you are genuinely interested in Judd's work around the world, there is a LOT of information about what she experiences and what various NGOs do, with heavy end-notes directing readers to...more reading.

Thus... the book feels a little uneven.

I wish she had just published a book about her work with various NGOs and her experiences, including what she learned in graduate school that changed/enhanced her work. That would have been very interesting. Her personal biography is interesting, too, but has two small "faults": 1. she clearly wants to avoid finger-pointing, and even refuses to name the person who is clearly the target of her anger (and rightly so), which is silly, since everyone can pretty easily guess who it is, and 2. I've read some other biographies where the authors clearly still have a lot of conflicted, confusing feelings and thus the book becomes muddied (The Last Time I Wore a Dress is one such example I can think of off the top of my head).

I could argue that the ways Judd arranges her book is designed to deliberately show that in the middle of her global work she had a kind of nervous breakdown, and that her therapy helped create a bridge between her initial reasons for taking on her global work and a new understanding of her reasons for pursuing her global work..? But that also seems like a tortured reasoning for what could also feel like a messily-organized book, one in which she was told by her publisher that if she really wanted to sell a book about her global work, she'd better shoehorn in some Good Gossip About Her Childhood, and Judd does so verrrrry reluctantly.

Anyway... I liked what I read, but objectively, the book is kind of haphazard, and since she clearly feels resistant to delving into her painful memories, somewhat closed-off.
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Dianne I'm currently reading this book (about 25% through it) and am feeling the same way. It seems rather haphazard and there are times I reread something just to make sure that is what I had read.

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