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Burnt Toast isn't your typical celebrity autobiography. I must say, what puts me off the autobiography genre in general is the fact that most are self-indulgent, self-aggrandising and simply boastful. Teri Hatcher's is an exception. It resembles a self-help book without the preaching, as she draws from her own life experiences to make wider conclusions about the human experience in the hope that other people will learn from what she has done without having made the same mistakes.
Teri Hatcher has led an interesting life. An incredibly successful actress, she first hit international fame in the 90s, taking the lead role on science-fiction adventure show Lois & Clark and co-starring in a James Bond's Tomorrow Never Dies. However, an enormous career slump, a painful divorce and personal insecurities left her a broken women, who spent most days either crying on the kitchen floor or watching TV in bed, worrying how she'd pay the bills. Of course, she got a second chance at happiness, as she experienced a career revival taking the lead role in Desperate Housewives as the adorable yet clutsy Susan Mayer.
The simple fact that Teri has experienced both incredible highs and lows, in both a career and a personal sense, means that she seems very grounded. There is a sense of genuine gratitude for her success, where she never seems boastful about her fortunes, but at the same time, never adopts a woe-is-me attitude about her stumbles.
The writing style is really interesting, it's almost like a diary entry. Each chapter addresses a certain issue - for example, appearances or materialism. These are littered with anecdotes from Teri's own life which she uses as a platform to build upon and explain what she learnt from them. She writes with wit and honesty, and dares to be vulnerable. At times she mocks herself and her own writing, often putting sarcastic remarks in brackets. I fell in love with her sense of humour and genuinely laughed out loud several times in each chapter. One particularly memorable moment is when she mentioned "eating the burnt toast", after which she wrote (Okay, Okay! I know what you're thinking! Enough with the burnt toast metaphor! But it IS the title). The autobiography is written like she is talking to the reader, and it's very effective at removing any sense of being condescending (that many self-help style books have).
The metaphor of the book is beautiful and really inspiring. The idea of Burnt Toast is the fact that sometimes, even something as simple as making a slice of toast can go wrong. But when you are standing there, holding that charred piece of bread in your hands, what you do with it is more telling then anything else in the world. If you eat it, it shows that your happiness is worth less than that slice of bread. If you smother it in jam and cover the taste, you are just trying to make do. The book talks about how people (especially women) become so obsessed with making everyone else happy, they forget about themselves. This book is truly life affirming and teaches you to love yourself for who you are and also that if you treat yourself, you're not depriving someone else and you shouldn't feel guilty for it.
I think the lack of chronology to the book perhaps is what may put some people off if they are looking to learn a lot about Teri's life. She goes into great detail about specific events, but does not really flesh out certain key points such as what it is like to work on the set of Desperate Housewives etc. In some ways, it is satisfying, as I didn't feel mind-numbed by endless mundane childhood stories which seem to inevitably fill celebrity autobiographies, but at the same time, I felt a little like my thirst went unquenched in a couple of key areas.
Overall, it's an excellent book. I honestly do not think you have to be a fan of Teri Hatcher to appreciate this at all, nor do you have to know anything about her before hand. It is not a book about her life. It's a book about life which has some real pearls of wisdom about how to maybe treat yourself a little better, and take a few steps closer towards the happiness you deserve (although what's really appealing is that Teri is able to admit a lot of times - "I try to do this, but don't always" or confesses that she doesn't have the answers). Although a little repetitive at times - for example, she repeats the fact that she loves to cook and that her daughter is her world - it is largely an immensely enjoyable read.
im not teri hatchers biggest fan or anything. and autobiographies aren't really my thing. but i love to read and i had read everything on my bookcase one day. so off i went to the shops. and for some reason this book appealed to me. i do think teri hatcher is funny and brilliant in desperate housewives. but i'd not really followed her other than that. after reading the blurb i was just taken in. it was an autobiography slash self help book. this was so unlike me to want to read. but it was hilarious. it's well written and you can tell she has her feet on the ground. she doesnt try to tell you how to live your life. just points out where shes gone wrong and how she learnt to appreciate herself and her surroundings more. i could not put this book down. the burnt toast title is brilliant. but you should read it if you want to know what it means! it is a metaphor for how she decided to live her life. I dont want to give too much away here. She jumps in and out of various parts of her life, explains what happened to her and how she overcame or dealt with it. In each part she provides a lesson for us all. She is a single mum, or was when the book was written at least, i can't speak for her circumstances now, and she talks on many occasions about raising her daughter and what that was like, As a mum i could really relate to this, so would double recommend ti to the mummies out there! Its a really good and funny read even if you don't end up taking anything helpful from it, but i believe you will!
I like to read auto-biographies; I love learning about peoples struggles, their achievements, their passions and truly believe that when reading someones memoirs your reading a little piece of their soul, your taking a snippet of their wisdom and you are experiencing a moment in time that affected them in some way. I believe you can learn more from an autobiography than any other form of literature and I try my hardest to read them as often as possible. So when I saw Burnt Toast by Teri Hatcher on the shelf I decided that it would be a good one to read next and Im glad I did because whilst its not as inspirational and life changing as the blurb tries to make out, it is an interesting, refreshing and surprisingly engaging account of someones pursuit for perfection -and eventual realisation that perfection is neither attainable nor desirable.- Hatcher doesnt take herself too seriously which helps the book steer away from the whiny, preachy, ditzy read that I feared and actually comes across as a genuinely nice, intelligent and down to earth woman who suffers with exactly the same problems as everyone else and her ideas on parenting and life feel fresh and unique.
After two failed marriages, a long period as a Hollywood has been, a lifetime of crippling insecurities and the constant fear that she just isnt -and never will be- good enough, Teri Hatcher has a lot of issues to draw upon and usually has something witty and interesting to say about them. Like when probing her need to put others before herself and her fear of success she write 'Knowing what you want and not admitting it to yourself can be tough, especially if you're a chicken like me. But its even harder to find your authentic path when you have to contend with the pressures of family, friends, and strangers. People laugh at you, undermine your beliefs, or kindly and sincerely want something different for you, and it makes following your own path much harder' which is something that we can all relate to male, female, happy or unhappy. She comes up with these wonderful analogies on life that ring true -which is sometimes pleasing, but more often than not worrying- and manages to encapsulate so many feelings into a sentence that you cant help but feel some sort of connection with her, shes human -sure, shes a beautiful, rich and successful human- but she is human never the less.
By the end of the book she garners so much good will for herself that - whether you want to or not- you end up rooting for her and genuinely wishing that she reaches the state of happiness that she desires. She is prepared to work for contentment and through recognising and realising that she isnt perfect, I think she will get there. I for one was surprised by how well she writes, she writes with fluidity and warmth and humour and whilst she wont ever be regarded as one of the worlds greatest writers -a title I feel she would be uncomfortable receiving anyway- she manages to sideline the stiltedness and laborious feel that many of these celebrity/come writer often instil in their books. She finds her groove almost straight away and shoots through both humorous and painful accounts with the confidence and style of someone who has been writing for most of their life. Surprisingly enough her accounts of the most painful times in her life have an essence of humour engrained into them, which proves that under all the layers of vulnerability she is a warrior -even though she may to hide it from herself and others.-
Hatcher teaches a lot of lessons; the importance of making time for yourself, the benefits of having close friends, how delayed gratification can help you as a person, why it important to look at nature, the advantages of admitting your strengths and accepting your vulnerabilities and how spending time with your children can be as rewarding as with your close friends. All these lessons -which could of been preachy- are injected with such resilience and warmth that they do make some sort of impact on you. There are things that she writes about that I can relate to -like staying up till three oclock in the morning wondering what I would do if there were a fire in the house, or whether I would be brave enough to run in and same someone- and I doubt there is anyone who wouldnt relate to something she says. It is refreshing to see a celebrity being so honest about their flaws and insecurities, she freely admits that she has made mistakes and her willingness to share them is surprisingly endearing. She has little quirks, little cracks on the surface, lingering demons and what makes her such lovely person to read about is her readiness to fight them. She uses every weapon at her disposal to make each and every day better than the one before, I like her attitude towards life and I think if I ever met her I would like her to, shes a worker, a fighter and a fiercely independent identity -which more often than not works against her- but shes also genuinely nice and that comes out in her writing.
It is a shame then that Burnt Toast is aimed mainly at a female audience - Hatcher has more than enough insight and wisdom to appeal to members of both genders and she occasionally descends into the kind of man bashing that alienates that audience. I have no problem with her expressing her experiences and opinions of men, but these parts of the book feel forced and overdone, as if she is trying to appeal to a female audience, without any real point or anything new to say. What makes Burnt Toast so interesting is the lessons that Teri Hatcher has learnt because of the bad situations she has found herself, and I dont feel that the lessons she learned from her bad relationships are as compelling as the ones that came from single motherhood or her career. Also, when she uncovers a truth or has a good idea -which she frequently does- she tends to repeat it throughout the book so they can become tiresome and repetitive. While her analogy about Burnt Toast Toast. You know when youre trying to make it and you just cant get it right? Its too light or too soft, then totally burned. Are you the type of person who tries to scrape of the black? Or do you smother it with jam to hide the taste? Do you throw it away, or do you just eat it is an interesting take on parents sacrificing their own enjoyment for the pleasure of their children, it becomes a little boring after 30 pages of hammering the message home.
Still, even with these flaws that do eventually grate Burnt Toast remains heartfelt and funny and interesting with enough material to keep an audience hooked and a surprising dose of well earned wisdom. Perhaps her biggest achievement is the level of intimacy she manages to create. By the end of the book I felt as if I knew her and -even though I am ashamed to admit it- I was sad when the book finished, I felt as if I had just had my last conversation with a close friend. I valued her opinion and comments on life and I really enjoyed reading them for a couple of days. After visiting Africa and unloading her emotional baggage in the barren wilderness and feeling for the first time a sense of relief from everything she writes I think of Africa, a place that was, is, and will always be bigger and stronger than I am. Theres comfort in that. Im not free floating and alone. Africa is big enough to contain me and all my emotional litter. And so I urge you to look for the place or book or being that can do the same for you. Do the daily work. Make the small changes. Follow your chosen path. And, when the time is right youll find your Africa. When you release the weight of your past, youll see that it still teaches you without controlling you. Youre unburdened. You can appreciate being exactly where you are as you move in the direction that you want to go. You can see what is, and what can be. Will be. And thats enough.
So I say, good luck Teri Hatcher. You have crafted a book that is both enlightening and entertaining. It teaches that most of al we are all a work in progress, we are all human and all have the same worries and feelings. You have worked for your happiness and are continuing on you path. We all should do the same. So thanks for sharing and for progressing.
But along the way to becoming who you are, even the smallest, seemingly obscure interactions can unexpectedly direct your mood positively or negatively.
- Teri Hatcher, Burnt Toast
Toast, you know when you're trying to make it and you just can't get it right? It's too light or too soft, then totally burnt. Are you the kind of person who tries to scrape off the black? Or do you smother it with jam to hide the taste? Do you throw it away, or do you just eat it? Up until now, I ate the burnt toast ...then I hit forty. It took Teri Hatcher a divorce, the experience of single motherhood, a parade of bad dates, a stalled career and a memorable fortieth birthday to realize that she didn't want to spend another decade preparing herself for the next disaster. Burnt Toast is the heartfelt, funny, poignant and inspiring account of Teri's jagged route to happiness. Teri reveals her life in unexpected ways, in the hopes of keeping other women from eating the burnt toast, and explains why you'll never get a second chance if you don't open yourself up to the possibility.