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BOOK REVIEW: MATTHEW PERRY – Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing

| 27 July 2023 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: MATTHEW PERRY – Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing
Hachette Australia
Nov 2022, paperback
Rrp AUD$34.99
Reviewed by Trulie Pinnegar

Matthew Perry’s memoir is heartfelt and soul searching, raw and honest… yet even after reading, I am wondering – what is he seeking? Is it forgiveness – and if so, forgiveness of others, or of himself?

You’d expect a Big American Star’s ‘tell all’ biography – especially one with such a glaringly clickbait-esque title – to be humble and contrite. In this case though, you’d be barking up the wrong Big American Star.

Alluding to his addictions in the title should be enough of a stimulus to explore the shame and self-loathing he obviously feels, but… nah, not really.

The recurring theme of FRIENDS, LOVERS, AND THE BIG TERRIBLE THING is NOT his time on Friends, though naturally that is mentioned. The focus here, rather, is an account of his life when he’d fallen off the wagon – alcohol from age 14, then painkillers… a lot of painkillers – along with a few glimpses of his sober times. Would it have felt more balanced if he’d dug deep into what it felt like to live soberly – or is that too painful for him because of the many times he’s fallen down?

Undoubtedly, we have to give thanks to the show, Friends. Not only did it provide our generation (and continues to provide younger generations) with one of the best TV shows to come out of the ‘90s and early 2000s, but it was also very obviously Perry’s saving grace. He can boast many other acting accolades on an impressive filmography, however, Friends the show and his fellow actors appear to have been a wonderful substitute for the family support he lacked as a child. The unconditional love they showed him when his addiction got the better of him, and the fact that they welcomed him back into the fold with open, non-judgemental arms, was surely something that deep down would have motivated him to keep going.

He details awful abandonment issues – inferring that these are so profoundly damaging that even now he struggles to be able to accept someone into his life who could support him to overcome the childhood trauma that plagues him so.

I certainly can’t say that FRIENDS, LOVERS, AND THE BIG TERRIBLE THING isn’t compelling reading, but I wanted it to endear me to him more. I wanted to feel empathy with him. But sadly, it didn’t, and I don’t. I feel sympathy but not empathy. I hate to read that he went through what he did, but somehow can’t fully resign myself to all of this being outside of his control or sphere of influence.

Sadly though, his life now seems so lonely and full of such overwhelming regrets.

Ultimately it is wonderful that he has found the strength to document his journey ‘warts and all’ in such an open, transparent, and candid way, and we must be supportive of his ability to do that in spite of his illness – or perhaps as part of his recovery.

Here’s hoping that his experience exploring his past and problems as best he can will give him a well-deserved and long-overdue sense of worth, self-love and self-confidence to carry him through the next chapter of his life.


Category: Book Reviews

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