cover image Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Judy Lewis. Atria Books, $23 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70019-5

Born in 1935, Lewis was a mother herself when she learned what her friends and acquaintances already knew--that she was the offspring of a single mother and a married father. Her parents were Loretta Young and Clark Gable. Young, fearing that her daughter's birth would ruin two movie careers, staged an adoption to cover up what she regarded as her most grievous mortal sin. In this absorbing memoir Lewis writes without self-pity of her unfulfilled relationship with both parents; she met Gable only once, when she was 15; her account of that event is the book's most poignant scene, because she was unaware that he was her father. She is frank about her mother's ``imperfections and sometimes difficult personality,'' a gentle way of characterizing Young, whom she shows to be humorless and narcissistic and whose career was second only to her Catholic faith in importance. When Lewis launched her own acting career on Broadway in the '50s soaps, her mother disapproved. Their increasingly strained relationship ruptured in 1966 when Young refused to attend her granddaughter's wedding. ``It all came pouring out--all the years of hurt and abandonment, all the feelings of not belonging, of being an outsider in my own family.'' Mother and daughter remain estranged. This tell-all memoir is an affecting account of family failure and only incidentally about celebrities and Hollywood. Photos. (Apr.)