Reviews for Talking To My Angels

by Melissa Etheridge

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

New Age–tinged memoir by lesbian rock icon Etheridge, recounting the highs and lows of a long career. To paraphrase French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “I am a spiritual being having a human experience,” writes Etheridge. She’s also a survivor of many a rough patch, from seeking the approval of an emotionally distant mother who considered her queer identity a “psychological illness” to kicking cancer and enduring a couple of very ugly breakups—and, worst of all, the death of a son to a fentanyl overdose. Etheridge’s book of revelations begins on a heady note, her mind on a hard-earned vacation courtesy of a whole bunch of pot-laced cookies. She had an epiphany that “love is within us and all around us” and that maybe she didn’t have to try so hard. Still, for all the past-life-regressing and consultations of astrological charts, the author seems to be a get-it-done, practical-minded Midwesterner with no end to her work ethic. Would-be songwriters stand to learn quite a bit from studying her process as well as the pointers from those who taught her—e.g., a jazz guitarist who instructed, “Doesn’t matter what notes you play. Just never go out of time.” It took a while for Etheridge to hit the big time, but she amassed enough material over years of hard work that she could field an at-home pandemic concert series every night for a month without repeating herself. Another lesson she discusses is the importance of connecting with one’s spiritual being, “assisted, of course, by ingesting a lot of cannabis.” On that note, Etheridge serves up a meaningful, even helpful elaboration of Don Miguel Ruiz’s famed “four agreements,” the last of which should form the heart of anyone’s life practices: “Just do your best, always.” A must for Etheridge fans, with plenty of lessons for striving musicians. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

One night in 2003 while alone on her couch after digesting chocolate-chip cookies infused with more cannabis than she realized, Grammy and Oscar-winning musician and LGBTQ+ leader Etheridge went through a unique hallucinogenic high and a spiritual awakening. With that as the beginning, she recounts important aspects of her life. Growing up as “a nobody from Kansas,” Etheridge sought the validation, approval, and love of her chilly mother only to receive silence or, worse, discouragement. Etheridge describes dropping out of Berklee College of Music in Boston to concentrate on writing her own songs, briefly returning to Kansas, then moving to Los Angeles. She discusses sibling sexual abuse, the lack of gay role models when she was growing up, the difficulties of parenting, serious health issues, and living through the pandemic. Most of all, this is a survivor’s guide not only about beating cancer, but also coping with the tragic death of her son who died of an opioid addiction in 2020. The singer's many fans will appreciate her honesty in this compassionate and gentle memoir of self-realization, self-empowerment, and self-healing.

Publishers Weekly
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Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Etheridge follows up 2001’s The Truth Is... with a frank look at her life and career. Born in Kansas in 1961, Etheridge had a difficult childhood: her older sister began sexually abusing her when she was six or seven, her mother had debilitating depression, and Etheridge herself struggled with an early realization that she was gay. Music provided an emotional outlet and, eventually, a lucrative career. She’s especially good at linking the lyrics of her best-known work to the experiences that inspired them: “Bring Me Some Water,” for example, came from a place of insecurity about a nonmonogamous partner (“I would have my share of dating more than one woman at a time, but when I was with Kathleen, I wanted her to be all mine”). Most affecting, though, are the sections about Etheridge’s son, Beckett, and his descent into opioid addiction. In 2020, Beckett died of an overdose at age 21, and Etheridge writes wrenchingly of her slow-moving project to forgive herself for his death and focus on the “warmth” she gleans from his memory. This clear-eyed look at life, loss, and art-making resonates. Agent: Yfat Reiss Gendel, YRG Partners. (Sept.)