Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go: From Mental Welfare to Mental Health by Lucille O'Neal is meant to be an uplifting story about how a woman came from the humblest beginnings to become mother of one of the greatest sports stars that ever set foot on earth – Shaquille O’Neal. It is never pleasant to have to write a negative review but unfortunately, I found this book to be almost devoid of redeeming characteristics. The problem with the book is twofold and had to do with that “humble” upbringing and Lucille’s interpretation of the events in her life.
Lucille O’Neal came from a relatively privileged middle-class background. Her parents split up when she was young and her grandparents were extremely cold but that does not amount to an impoverished or deprived childhood. Having encountered impoverished children and families in urban and rural settings, in both so-called first and third world countries, I found Lucille’s self-indulgent and exaggerated focus on her unhappy childhood to be beyond grating. Many children across many cultures experienced a coldness and lack of moral support while growing up in the 50s and 60s and many of them grew up to provide healthy and loving environments for their children nevertheless.
Part of the purpose of an autobiography is for the author to revisit the events in her life and the decisions she made and to pass a mature analysis and judgement on her past. It is not enough to simply report the events in her life; she needs to explain the significance of those events and her decisions and how these helped her to grow and become a better person. The problem is that Lucille has not done this. She may be a fantastic and inspiring public speaker (and she is) but I did not feel that she transferred those qualities into this book.
She describes falling pregnant as a teenager; holding endless dinner parties at her home; slipping into alcoholism as an adult and eventually leaving her husband as linear events. She portrays them alternatively as the products of cold and dissatisfying close relationships or situations engineered for her by God but she never once takes ownership of her actions nor does she accept responsibility for her decisions. It is a real pity actually because I think there is a story to tell here but I don’t think Lucille has sufficiently moved past the events in her life to be able to pass wisdom through the written medium in the way that her charisma and personality do when she speaks.
I give Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go: From Mental Welfare to Mental Health one out of five stars and unfortunately would not recommend this book.
I obtained a copy of this book to review through the BookSneeze programme. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Article first published as Book Review: Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go: From Mental Welfare to Mental Health by Lucille O'Neal on Blogcritics.