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Part Swan, Part Goose: An Uncommon Memoir of Womanhood, Work, and Family

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In a wise, warmhearted memoir that celebrates her extraordinary life and stellar career, Swoosie Kurtz shares just the right combination of personal misadventure and showbiz lore, candidly reflecting on the right choices that empowered her, the wrong choices that enlightened her, and the intimate journey of caring for an aging parent. Animating this remarkable memoir is Swo In a wise, warmhearted memoir that celebrates her extraordinary life and stellar career, Swoosie Kurtz shares just the right combination of personal misadventure and showbiz lore, candidly reflecting on the right choices that empowered her, the wrong choices that enlightened her, and the intimate journey of caring for an aging parent. Animating this remarkable memoir is Swoosie’s relationship with her equally remarkable parents. Her father, Frank, was an Olympic athlete and highly decorated World War II airman. He flew a record number of missions in a cobbled-together B-17D called the Swoose. Her mother, Margo, was the quintessential military wife but with the spunk and will to match her husband’s. Her 1945 memoir, My Rival, the Sky, chronicled their lives up to the time of the birth of their daughter. Today, Margo, who is fast approaching her hundredth birthday, lives with Swoosie. And Swoosie’s life has become a precarious and precious balancing act as she struggles to stay ahead of her mother’s increasing needs while navigating a showbiz career that keeps one foot in Hollywood and the other on Broadway. The critics love Swoosie Kurtz…. “Inimitable…one of the best comic actors of our time.” —USA Today “[An] expert comic actress…may just be the most seductive woman on the New York stage right now.” —Charles Isherwood, The New York Times and “full of surprises…expressive…devastating…unforgettable.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times


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In a wise, warmhearted memoir that celebrates her extraordinary life and stellar career, Swoosie Kurtz shares just the right combination of personal misadventure and showbiz lore, candidly reflecting on the right choices that empowered her, the wrong choices that enlightened her, and the intimate journey of caring for an aging parent. Animating this remarkable memoir is Swo In a wise, warmhearted memoir that celebrates her extraordinary life and stellar career, Swoosie Kurtz shares just the right combination of personal misadventure and showbiz lore, candidly reflecting on the right choices that empowered her, the wrong choices that enlightened her, and the intimate journey of caring for an aging parent. Animating this remarkable memoir is Swoosie’s relationship with her equally remarkable parents. Her father, Frank, was an Olympic athlete and highly decorated World War II airman. He flew a record number of missions in a cobbled-together B-17D called the Swoose. Her mother, Margo, was the quintessential military wife but with the spunk and will to match her husband’s. Her 1945 memoir, My Rival, the Sky, chronicled their lives up to the time of the birth of their daughter. Today, Margo, who is fast approaching her hundredth birthday, lives with Swoosie. And Swoosie’s life has become a precarious and precious balancing act as she struggles to stay ahead of her mother’s increasing needs while navigating a showbiz career that keeps one foot in Hollywood and the other on Broadway. The critics love Swoosie Kurtz…. “Inimitable…one of the best comic actors of our time.” —USA Today “[An] expert comic actress…may just be the most seductive woman on the New York stage right now.” —Charles Isherwood, The New York Times and “full of surprises…expressive…devastating…unforgettable.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

30 review for Part Swan, Part Goose: An Uncommon Memoir of Womanhood, Work, and Family

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I like reading memoirs and this one is pretty good. Swoosie Kurtz writes about growing up with amazing parents. Her father was an Olympic diver. And a World War 2 airman. Her mother a pretty neat lady herself wrote a book in 1945 called "My Rival, My Sky" a book about the lives of her husband and herself during World War 2. Swoosie even shares this memoir with passages of her Mother's book."My Rival,MY Sky" Swoosie has an unusual first name. She explains how she got it. She is named after her da I like reading memoirs and this one is pretty good. Swoosie Kurtz writes about growing up with amazing parents. Her father was an Olympic diver. And a World War 2 airman. Her mother a pretty neat lady herself wrote a book in 1945 called "My Rival, My Sky" a book about the lives of her husband and herself during World War 2. Swoosie even shares this memoir with passages of her Mother's book."My Rival,MY Sky" Swoosie has an unusual first name. She explains how she got it. She is named after her dad's plane called "The Swoose" not too mention like the title of this book. Part Swan Part Goose. She speaks fondly and with great love of her parents. She grew up happy and loved. Her Mother Margo is now in her 90s and has dementia. part of the book is about the reversal of roles with Swoosie now being the caretaker of her beloved mother. I was glad to get the chance to read about her experiences in plays,movies, and TV. she speaks fondly of her fellow actors and actresses. This is not a tell all type book. even not so great experiences from her work are not focused on. This was a nice read. I have seen Swoosie Kurtz in many roles and like her work as a talented actress. like I said, no mud slinging is in this memoir. she is very gracious about speaking of her acting experiences. if you are a fan of Swoosie Kurtz you many enjoy reading her memoir.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen M

    When I began reading this book I kept thinking that this was going to be a three star read and I felt disappointed. I wanted to know about the author, Swoosie Kurtz, not her parents! But, the further I read the more I realized that she couldn’t tell this story without including her parents’ story because the two are very connected. We are the product of by whom and how and where we are raised or a combination of genetics and environment. And so, Swoosie is the product of a father who was an Olymp When I began reading this book I kept thinking that this was going to be a three star read and I felt disappointed. I wanted to know about the author, Swoosie Kurtz, not her parents! But, the further I read the more I realized that she couldn’t tell this story without including her parents’ story because the two are very connected. We are the product of by whom and how and where we are raised or a combination of genetics and environment. And so, Swoosie is the product of a father who was an Olympic diver and Air Force officer and pilot of a B17 bomber and a mother who rather than sit on the side lines also learned to fly and to be the long distance wife of a military pilot during WWII and who also became an author herself. Swoosie tells of the life she created for herself as an actress with the support of her parents. All the ups and downs of her career and her drive to constantly be busy working because acting truly became Swoosie’s life. Oh, there were significant others but no one who really became more important or vital to her than her career. She had a few long term relationships with men but in the end her career was the huge constant in her life, that and her parents. The beginning of the book moves a little slowly and, perhaps like me, you will wonder why Swoosie keeps quoting from her mother’s book but the further you read the more interesting her life becomes and the more interested you will become in her parents. I think it’s fair to say that all three of them are characters you will want to read about and will be touched by some parts of their story. This book was won as a First Reads giveaway.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This engaging memoir by the Tony and Emmy award winning actress not only charts her life on stage, screen and TV but also her relationship with her parents. Her mother wrote a wartime memoir back in the 1940s and each of Swoosie's chapters begins with a snippet from that book. SO, it's almost a dual memoir. There's not a lot of kissing and telling, although we do find out that she had a nearly decade-long relationship with Brent Spiner (before he achieved fame as Data on STAR TREK NEXT GENERATIO This engaging memoir by the Tony and Emmy award winning actress not only charts her life on stage, screen and TV but also her relationship with her parents. Her mother wrote a wartime memoir back in the 1940s and each of Swoosie's chapters begins with a snippet from that book. SO, it's almost a dual memoir. There's not a lot of kissing and telling, although we do find out that she had a nearly decade-long relationship with Brent Spiner (before he achieved fame as Data on STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION). The work is what was always most important in her life and we get some great behind-the-scenes stories of the making of some icon plays, TV shows and movies. (How many people knew she co-starred in a 1980 production of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre featuring Mike Nichols and Elaine May as George and Martha?) The last third of the follows how her life changed (and was enhanced)when her mother (now 99 years old) moved in with her when her mother began showing signs of Alzheimer's. A moving tale, well-told.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I loved this book. It's a testimony of great sacrificial love for Swoozie by her parents. Their unconditional love for their daughte is inspiring. God bless her as she cares for her aging Mother! I loved this book. It's a testimony of great sacrificial love for Swoozie by her parents. Their unconditional love for their daughte is inspiring. God bless her as she cares for her aging Mother!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mediaman

    The book cover says this is an "uncommon memoir," but it's really a strange, bizarre retelling of the life of the author's parents. Swoosie Kurtz is a great actress, but instead of giving details or depth about her famous roles, she instead turns at least half the book over to stories about her parents. And they just aren't that interesting. Sure, her dad did some significant WWII heroics, but after a page or two of that she should have been discussing her own life, not lifting huge sections of The book cover says this is an "uncommon memoir," but it's really a strange, bizarre retelling of the life of the author's parents. Swoosie Kurtz is a great actress, but instead of giving details or depth about her famous roles, she instead turns at least half the book over to stories about her parents. And they just aren't that interesting. Sure, her dad did some significant WWII heroics, but after a page or two of that she should have been discussing her own life, not lifting huge sections of writings from her mother's 1940-something book! If you're looking for stories about her award-winning roles, you won't find much here. The picture she paints is of a perfect family where she was an only child and her parents were adventurers that did whatever they (or she) wanted at the drop of a hat. Then as she grew up she never really left them--she continued to live with them as she won Emmy Awards and starred in the great Sisters (for which there's not enough dish here). When Swoosie gets her own house, her parents move in with her! And to the end of the book, with her mother in her 90s, the famed Broadway star still is clutching to her mom's breast and the memory of her dad (both of whom she called by their first names!). It's just plain bizarre. In terms of her sexuality, she seems to confirm that she is not a lesbian (although she does a vague teasing of the possibility) and mentions a couple of significant men she dated or lived with. However, she never seems to be in love with anyone other than her parents, doesn't give any details about sleeping around, and until a surprise revelation about an abortion near the end of the book, there doesn't seem to be any reason given for why she never married. Even if she can't explain it the reason is evident due to her clinging to her parents, putting them on a pedestal, trying to claim she has no guilt over killing her unborn child, and making non-political political plays or movies. Kurtz is famous for appearing in a number of significant liberal, progressive roles that were created in an attempt to sway society, yet she claims they were balanced showing both viewpoints and not political. She is either delusional or refuses to see anything other than her own perspective. The book ends up being incredibly unfulfilling. it's fake. Like her acting, it's her putting on a costume for show without revealing her true self. As her parents age and Swoosie's life unravels, there is no sympathy for her inability to separate herself from the people who raised her. Instead the book ends on a depressing note that makes the reader question how such a supposedly wonderful, tight-knit threesome could turn out so bad as they age. It seems like her early life was that of a beautiful swan but her later years were that of an unpleasant honking goose.

  6. 4 out of 5

    April Williams

    I adore Swoosie Kurtz's character, Joyce Flynn on Mike & Molly. Her book gives a detailed insight to growing up an only child, her passion over time for performing in the theater, along with her love for being in New York & California. Her close knit bond with both parents & her role as caregiver to her mother during her years with dementia. The book has excerpts from writing done by her mother during a time period when her husband was a pilot in the war. The book also details different projects I adore Swoosie Kurtz's character, Joyce Flynn on Mike & Molly. Her book gives a detailed insight to growing up an only child, her passion over time for performing in the theater, along with her love for being in New York & California. Her close knit bond with both parents & her role as caregiver to her mother during her years with dementia. The book has excerpts from writing done by her mother during a time period when her husband was a pilot in the war. The book also details different projects Swoosie has worked on and been a part of over the span of her lengthy career. A very interesting read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Helfrich

    Lovely depiction of a family who dearly loved each other. I have always admired Swoosie as an actress and can now admire her as a caring daughter.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kumari

    First, I don't know much about Swoosie (she lets you know early on that it's pronounced so that it rhymes with juicy and you-see instead of floozy) other than that I recently saw her in a small part recently on the TV series Heroes. I don't very little of her older work and less about her personally. However, I think she's uniquely beautiful and always recognize her. I adore that she calls her book PART SWAN, PART GOOSE, which shows a wry wit and, you learn as you read, a lot of humility. The be First, I don't know much about Swoosie (she lets you know early on that it's pronounced so that it rhymes with juicy and you-see instead of floozy) other than that I recently saw her in a small part recently on the TV series Heroes. I don't very little of her older work and less about her personally. However, I think she's uniquely beautiful and always recognize her. I adore that she calls her book PART SWAN, PART GOOSE, which shows a wry wit and, you learn as you read, a lot of humility. The beginning - the first chapter - is about her life today where she calls her mother living with her "darling” as if they're life partners or something. The whole setup sounds just too Old Hollywood, you expect Joan Crawford to breeze through in a flowing gown. Her childhood seems too idyllic to be true. But this is probably the way they speak, as they're both delightfully fanciful women. It grows on you, as you get to know Swoosie through the chapters, as she's really very down-to-earth (enough to get on her hands-and-knees in her red carpet dress to clean up her mom's accidental poop on the floor). As she tells more of her family's history, she addresses the cynics (moi), and this is disarming. Now, I find her voice to be more and more charming as I read further; not as affectation - but genuinely charming. And she mentions some good life lessons she learned from her military family; like that moving around a lot means that no matter what, you take yourself from place-to-place so you've got to be able to live with yourself and your actions. Also that kindness and generosity get you much further than fear and selfishness. I think no truer words have been spoken, as its something we all could do and see more of in our culture. Plus, it just freaking feels better to not be an asshole like everyone else - like those who seems to be soooo successful but who are dead and soulless inside. But, that's my editorial on what she wrote, not her words. :-) As I read on, I found myself very interested to find out more. It's fascinating to me to learn about the ins-and-outs of how actors do what they. I especially loved learning more about dramatic acting (plays) which I wasn't aware Swoosie has always been highly active in as compared to movies and TV. How would I know that, since its all based in NYC? But that been the foundation of her work. I love the behind the scenes stories and there are plenty of interesting ones told here -- NOT gossip but again more of how it all works and heart warming tales of those she's loved working with and why. She seems exceedingly grateful for all of it, is always complimentary. But then she does come across as a very positive woman who genuinely likes people. I guess that's help, too, in that profession. Overall, I really like Swoosie and feel as if I know her - she seems so open and joyful! I'm definitely going to review some of her earlier work now. The writing is also high quality. While not an important figure in American history or anything, she's had an interesting life and story to tell for a variety of reasons. I especially appreciate it because she's always been a single woman and childless and feels, as I do, that it adds to our cultural fabric to tell the important life stories of uncommon women who actively choose to color outside the lines. I got this book free through the First Reads giveaway program here on GoodReads. However, I would not read even free books if they are steaming dog turds; the public library has free books of the highest caliber, otherwise.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    Spoiler: This is a gorgeous book. In lieu of a traditional review, I was privileged to chat with Swoosie about the book and her life. Here is a snippet from that chat. Read the full Q&A at The Frisky. “I forgot to get married and have babies” is often a line women with successful careers hear from their peers as a warning to reprioritize their lives. Yet this is exactly how Swoosie Kurtz, currently starring in “Mike and Molly” with Melissa McCarthy, explains why she is 69-years-old and never marr Spoiler: This is a gorgeous book. In lieu of a traditional review, I was privileged to chat with Swoosie about the book and her life. Here is a snippet from that chat. Read the full Q&A at The Frisky. “I forgot to get married and have babies” is often a line women with successful careers hear from their peers as a warning to reprioritize their lives. Yet this is exactly how Swoosie Kurtz, currently starring in “Mike and Molly” with Melissa McCarthy, explains why she is 69-years-old and never married and without children. But never fear, Swoosie has no regrets. How did a girl with an unconventional name grow up to conquer stage and screen— starring on ”Sisters,” “Pushing Daisies,” and “Nurse Jackie,” as well as taking home multiple Tonys, Emmys, Obies and Drama Desk Awards — and still be happy without “a family?” Well, her family. In her new memoir, Part Swan, Part Goose: An Uncommon Memoir Of Womanhood, Work And Family, Kurtz carefully outlines a parent-child love story that is the foundation for her successful career. Named after her World War II war hero father’s B-17 bomber (the Swoose), her childhood was filled with travels across the world showcasing his accomplishments from the war and his Olympic diving skills. Her mother’s successful writing career culminated in a memoir about being a military wife called My Rival, The Sky, which Kurtz weaves into her own memoir. Read the full Q&A at The Frisky.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John

    I have to admit upfront that I am prejudiced since I edited and published this book but it is the best memoir that I've read in many many years. Nuanced, layered, funny, moving....and the critics agree (so it's not just me being a proud parent). While the book certainly chronicles Swoosie's career it's the back story of her relationship with her remarkable parents that is the heart of the book. (Swoosie's mother, Margo, is 98 and lives with Swoosie. The anecdotes about the role reversals in the I have to admit upfront that I am prejudiced since I edited and published this book but it is the best memoir that I've read in many many years. Nuanced, layered, funny, moving....and the critics agree (so it's not just me being a proud parent). While the book certainly chronicles Swoosie's career it's the back story of her relationship with her remarkable parents that is the heart of the book. (Swoosie's mother, Margo, is 98 and lives with Swoosie. The anecdotes about the role reversals in the Kurtz household will resonate with Baby Boomers who are living through the same circumstances.) Also, the book interweaves passages from Margo's memoir, My Rival, the Sky, published in 1945 (and now republished as an eBook). These beautifully written passage are carefully paired with Swoosie's story and reveal universal truths and timeless emotions about life during war time, whether it's WWII or Iraq or Afghanistan.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sher

    As memoirs go, this one was good. It would have been so-so had it not been for Kurtz' relationship with her mother, Margo. I took care of my own mother until she passed away at age 91, so it is easy to identify with the things Kurtz went through. Even though towards the end my mom had a hard time doing things for herself, I would have her back in a heartbeat if I could. I miss her every day. I miss her sweet influence in my house, and I miss her touch. That is basically what this book is about. As memoirs go, this one was good. It would have been so-so had it not been for Kurtz' relationship with her mother, Margo. I took care of my own mother until she passed away at age 91, so it is easy to identify with the things Kurtz went through. Even though towards the end my mom had a hard time doing things for herself, I would have her back in a heartbeat if I could. I miss her every day. I miss her sweet influence in my house, and I miss her touch. That is basically what this book is about. We love our moms and have a hard time without them. I found other aspects of the book interesting and entertaining even though I have never seen any of Kurtz' movies or TV shows. I'm sure she is a wonderful actress.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paula Archdeacon

    I really liked this book. I wasn't sure what to expect, and at first I was put off by the "flashbacks" which seemed to be inserted randomly. But as I read further, Swoosie's story really came to life. I appreciate her honesty and even though my life is very different from hers, we share some of the same struggles in making life decisions. The final chapters are especially poignant as Swoosie's mother falls more deeply into dementia. This book reveals the inner workings of the acting "business," I really liked this book. I wasn't sure what to expect, and at first I was put off by the "flashbacks" which seemed to be inserted randomly. But as I read further, Swoosie's story really came to life. I appreciate her honesty and even though my life is very different from hers, we share some of the same struggles in making life decisions. The final chapters are especially poignant as Swoosie's mother falls more deeply into dementia. This book reveals the inner workings of the acting "business," and how Swoosie's passion for acting carries her through crazy schedules and family drama. I would recommend this book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan Stitt

    A wonderful read. An insightful read. Swoosie reveals much about her Broadway story and her Hollywood story. She shares her family history that includes a father who is an Olympic diver and a war hero. She intermixes her chapters with chapters from her Mom's biography that was written in the 1940's when her husband was at war. Swoosie shares her mother's battle with dementia. A sweet, informative read. A wonderful read. An insightful read. Swoosie reveals much about her Broadway story and her Hollywood story. She shares her family history that includes a father who is an Olympic diver and a war hero. She intermixes her chapters with chapters from her Mom's biography that was written in the 1940's when her husband was at war. Swoosie shares her mother's battle with dementia. A sweet, informative read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This book is part memoir, part story of her parents' lives, and part adult children taking care of their aging parents. I was looking more for the first part. Had I have been in the mindset for the other two I think I would have loved this book. Talk about a hard working actress. Reading the stories of her theatre, television, and film jobs was very interesting. This book is part memoir, part story of her parents' lives, and part adult children taking care of their aging parents. I was looking more for the first part. Had I have been in the mindset for the other two I think I would have loved this book. Talk about a hard working actress. Reading the stories of her theatre, television, and film jobs was very interesting.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Her film stories are more interesting than her real life but I still did find it interesting to read. I liked her best in Sisters. I find her devotion to her parents very caring and loving, esp. In her care of her 97 year old mother. Swoosie certainly did not have any difficulty finding her niche in life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This was a great, well written memoir of a family. Though Swoosie has had a unique life, she was able to show that under it all we are all just humans trying the best we can to have a happy life. The love she has for her parents is beautifully shown throughout the book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marcea

    I found it hard to read at first but as she got into the third chapter, I was hooked. Great stories about parents who loved each other and their child without restrain and it just happens those parents were WWII icons and their child turned into a famous actress.

  18. 5 out of 5

    ShanLandis

    Check out my review at: http://shannonsbookbag.blogspot.com/2... Check out my review at: http://shannonsbookbag.blogspot.com/2...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Beautifully written memoir

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ryal Mcmurry

    I have always liked Swoosie Kurtz. I found this book to be very interesting. More on her life than her career. I really enjoyed it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Linda Smatzny

    This book weaves the present with stories of the past. Everything is tied together by family. The author is named for the plane her father flew in WWII. The book contains black and white photos.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Donna

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amber Garabrandt

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

  25. 5 out of 5

    Deb

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stacie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jim Stevens

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jody

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

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