Where are the parents?
How many times have you heard (or said) that one while Britney was shaving her head, driving irresponsibly with her children, or beating paparazzi with an umbrella? I'll tell you where the mother was for that last one: Wishing it were her. Wishing there were less paparazzi out there and way more umbrellas.
And that's the beauty of this book. In all but maybe one chapter, it is not Britney's tell-all. It is the story of a mother. It's the story of a wife who had to navigate the troubling, not-so-easy-when-it's-you, waters of a spouse with alcoholism. It's the story of a very young bride who like many of us found complete and total fulfillment in her role as a mother.
Fulfillment, but not obsession. One thing I feel I learned about Lynne Spears is that her children matter more to her than anything else in the world, but they are not her identity. Her identity is completely her own, supported and encouraged by dear friends, and almost inseparable from her faith.
Lynne Spears's faith is one I can truly, deeply admire. It is vulnerable. It has answers, but not all of them for everything. It is un-shakeable but imperfect. And it grows but has always been.
All of these things are very clear in the book. The writing is simple and poignant. I was surprised to see it was actually a partnership, because Lynne Spears's strong, Southern voice comes through loud and clear in every paragraph.
I will probably still ask where the parents are with many of the troubled celebrities today. But not with her. I'll know exactly where she is, because she told me - and I believe her - that she is on her knees. She is praying, which is the only way to begin and the only thing with which you are left when the child grows up and gives you barely more than that as your role.
The most haunting paragraph in the book, for me, was when Britney was dating Justin Timberlake. They were having serious talks about life, and Britney came to her mother one day and said, "Mama, I just don't know if there really is a right and a wrong anymore. I mean, is there really a wrong?"
Lynne Spears says that she wrote this book for her children, and I believe that too. She gets a few digs in there, tells a few stories for our benefit so that we will know what she has to endure and what was really happening when we were making our own judgments about her - or believing the ones that were fed to us. But the strongest message in the book is definitely her love for her children, what she hopes and believes for them, how proud she is of their successes, and how hopeful she is that they will rise above their failures.
In the end, almost as if she has forgotten we are there, she prays for them that they will return to the faith she wishes she had practiced with them more. And I didn't wonder what her children will think of that or if they will feel attacked. I simply felt glad for them that they will at least know they are loved.
I appreciated this book, and I feel it accomplished its goal. Despite the unbelievable world Britney finds herself in, I think you'll believe Lynne Spears that at the level of the heart, we're basically all the same.