Ann Leary's hilarious, poignant, surprising, and heartfelt memoir, An Innocent, a Broad, is a phenomenon a fascinating, hugely entertaining chronicle of two simultaneous, unexpected births: of a baby and a major show-business career.
When Ann and her husband, then unknown actor-comedian Denis Leary, flew to London in the early nineties, neither anticipated the adventure that was in store for them. Ann, in her second trimester of pregnancy, looked forward to a carefree mini-vacation in England before the onset of motherhood. Denis saw his upcoming appearance on a BBC comedy program as the opportunity he needed to rocket his career forward. Although they had packed for only two nights, it would be five long months before they would be able to return to the United States.
Ann's premature labor began the morning after the couple arrived in London and she suddenly found herself an unwitting yet grateful hostage of Britain's National Health Service a stranger in a strange land, abruptly plunged into a world of breast pumps and midwives, blood oxygen levels, mad cow disease, and poll-tax riots. Desperately worried about the health of their tiny, prematurely born son, Jack, Ann struggled to adapt to motherhood and make sense of a very different culture while, simultaneously, Denis found himself an overnight sensation on London's comedy scene.
At once an intimate family memoir, a lively travelogue, a touching love story, an inside look at the entertainment industry, and a side-splitting comedy of errors, Ann Leary's An Innocent, a Broad is an utterly engaging and unforgettable look at the bizarre twists and hairpin turns one can encounter onthe road of life whether that road winds through a familiar neighborhood or a frustratingly foreign land.
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About the Author
Ann Lembeck Leary has written for television and film. She is married to actor Denis Leary. They have two children, including a now healthy and hearty teenaged Jack, and live on a farm in Connecticut.
Read an Excerpt
Innocent, a Broad, An
During my pregnancy with Jack, my first child, I worked in my stepfather's Boston law office and spent most of the day fantasizing about my baby and about its birth. I read someplace that one should keep a journal during pregnancy, and while I've always been too lazy for journal keeping, I thought I might chronicle the labor and birth, and perhaps even send in the result to one of the maternity publications that I had recently begun to read. These magazines printed real, firstperson accounts of childbirth, and I was especially fascinated by the home-birthing stories.
Who are these women? I wondered as I read one enthralling birth story after another. They scrubbed their kitchen floors and home-schooled their older children while they labored, then, when it was time to push, they pulled a plastic tub out of a closet, squatted over it, and blithely expelled a baby into the hands of an astoundingly capable husband. The children would help stitch up Mom, and the placenta would be stored in a lunch box in the freezer, presumably to be displayed annually on the child's birthday.
I admired the women in these stories for their stoicism and almost mystical strength, and I often imagined my own home birth. In my daydreams the home birth was never planned but happened almost against my will. I imagined that when I recognized the first pangs of labor, I would take a leisurely bath. Then, packing my pajamas into an overnight bag, I would realize that there was no time to make it to the hospital, and I would inform my husband in hot, gasping breaths that we would be having the baby at home. We would then spend the rest of the evening on our bed, laboring and breathing and ultimately producing a beautiful, plump baby that my husband would triumphantly slide onto my bare belly. (This fantasy would also, on occasion, include a handsome fireman who was called upon in a moment of panic.) Although I had never been able to endure a menstrual period without pain medication, I thought that with each dizzying contraction, a preternatural strength and instinctive wisdom would permeate my consciousness, and I would produce my baby with the calm efficiency of a mother cat. I also assumed that the entire birth story could be told on a single typed page.
I was wrong.
Jack's due date was July 3, 1990, but his birth story began almost four months earlier on March 23, when my husband, Denis Leary, and I arrived in London for what was supposed to be a long weekend. Denis was scheduled to appear the following night on Live from Paramount City, a BBC television show that featured unknown American and British comedy acts each week. We were young and broke, and producers were not yet in the habit of flying us anywhere, but the night before we had entered the first-class lounge at the Virgin terminal as if we flew first-class all the time, and during the flight I drank eight glasses of water, just as I'd been instructed to do in What to Expect When You're Expecting. Our first child was due in another fourteen weeks, and I spent the entire flight basking in the knowledge that this squirming, curving, rapturous movement inside me was from our baby. (Even in my thoughts, the word was italicized.)
For some reason I'd always had an uneasy suspicion that I would not be able to conceive a child, and when I did, I viewed it as nothing short of a miracle. Certainly I was aware that it didn't require a lot of intellect or talent to procreate and that most people could do it. But I've always known that I desperately wanted to be a mother, and I suspected that I might be punished for some premarital sexual high jinks by having my tubes sealed shut or my womb rendered useless by some invisible disease. It's a Catholic thing. The year before, after having lived together since college, Denis and I had decided to get married, and I wanted to immediately try to have a baby. Fortunately, Denis isn't one of those bothersome types who worry about actually being able to clothe and feed the child once it's born, and he was only too happy to participate in the babyproducing scheme. We stopped using the birth control that I had always feared was pathetically uncalled for, and miraculously, after one night of trying, I became pregnant. Now my neurotic mental flight patterns were rerouted, and I was overwhelmed with fear about the well-being of my unborn baby.
I had a recurring dream as a child. My mother leaves my brother and me in the car to run into a store, and while she's gone, the car starts driving by itself. I have to jump into the front seat and steer, but my feet can't reach the brakes, and the steering wheel keeps coming off its column, so we go careening through town, barely missing fatal collisions. We keep going. We want to stop, but we can't, and then I awaken. From the moment I learned I was pregnant, I felt as if I were in that car again, being taken for a ride I couldn't control.
A near miss occurred during my first trimester, when I began "spotting," a term I had never heard before but one that's relatively self-explanatory. In a panic I left work and started driving to Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I'd been assigned by my HMO to have my prenatal care. I drove through Charlestown and on toward Cambridge on what was then known as the Prison Point Bridge. I was trying to prevent the heaving sobs in my gut from working their way to the surface.
I knew it, I thought, and as I sat in traffic, I was almost completely engulfed in self-pity when I noticed a man in a pickup ...Innocent, a Broad, An. Copyright © by Ann Leary. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
What People are Saying About This
“Belongs next to David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day and even Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”
“Sharp and funny and snide and soulful… I’d hate her guts except that I want to be her best friend.”
“Fresh, heartfelt and hilarious...What a broad, what a momwhat a writer. I loved this book.”
“Uplifting, heart-cheering, and-in the most warm and human way-very, very funny….”
“Funny, irreverent, witty and wise…compulsively readable.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An excellent, heartfelt story. As a huge fan of the author's husband for many years and a long time before he became "famous", I was quite delightfully surprised that he didn't get the lion's share of attention in the book, but rather limited, yet perfectly placed, cameos. I can't imagine having to go through such an experience, yet after reading Leary's accounting of such a traumatic time in their lives, I am convinced this book doesn't stop with a delighful, heartwarming read, but will actually provide encouragement for others that find themselves in a similar predicament in their futures.
I loved this book. During our first pregnancy we traveled to London for a business trip for my husband so it was neat that I could really see how their circumstance affected their life.
This is such a wonderful book, I'm sure every mother who has had a pre-mature baby can relate to this book!
This book was amazingly witty and emotional. I was laughing one minute and crying the next. I'm a huge fan of Denis Leary, so I knew all about Ann and their two kids, but there was such honesty and emotion in Ann's writing that I felt like I didn't know the outcome. This is one of the best works of non-fiction I've read, HANDS DOWN. Ann Leary is one of my new favorite authors!
I adored this book. After little Jack Leary is born prematurely, his mother describes what it is really like to almost be marooned in a foreign country, with my family, friends, or money. Somehow, she and her husband manage to acquire all three. Learning how to be a mom is never easy, but she does it with wit and grace (although I¿m sure she would disagree). Ann Leary has a nice, light comic touch that will be appreciated by all readers, although mothers of preemies will find it especially moving. I bought this book because I was a Denis Leary fan, but I am now a HUGE Ann Leary fan. I hope to see more from her in the future.
This book was excellent. Very funny and touching. Ann Leary captures the dread and fear of not only having a preemie but the fear of loving a preemie whole heartedly because of the uncertainty of the outcome. I liked that she included the lingering effects of being a mom of a preemie both in terms of the worry that something will happen to the child and the realization of just how precious this child really is; something moms of plump, healthy, sleep-through-the-night-at-six-weeks (and remember to breathe)babies may not appreciate to the same extent. I would recommend this book to any mom who has had a premature baby.
I was not impressed with this book. I saw it listed in recommendations in an old magazine and decided to give it a try. I found it was not what I thought it would be, and the jacket blurb promising 'screamingly funny' bits was a lie. I barely managed a wry chuckle, and the only time I snorted a laugh was when Denis complained about the toilet paper and shower pressure. The problem I had with the book is all the unanswered questions I had. Why in the world didn't her mother, sister or father or Denis' family help her out more? although her sister did a great thing buying Ann some clothes. I wondered if she got phone calls from anyone, including Denis after he returned to the US. No mention of friends offering support besides the ones she made in Britain. Nowhere did I get the impression Denis was any support for her, whether he was in the US or UK, he always seemed to be off doing comedy, and when he was actually in the UK, he was sleeping after a gig and wasn't to be disturbed. I was also repulsed by her stories of her parents besides adding very little to the story, if I were either of her parents I would be very hurt by her public, blunt assessments of me. I had hopes of hearing more about culture clash, but apart from her dealing with the nursing staff, there were few observations about being in another country. Granted, I can understand her being totally obsessed with her son's well-being to the point of neglecting one's appearance, but it would have been nice to have fewer descriptions of the machinery and the umpteen repeats of the heart and breathing scares, and more of the daily stuff-where did she eat besides the hospital cafeteria how did she do laundry in the flat after Jack's discharge, was the washing machine ever fixed? etc., etc. If the book contained more memories of the time after Jack was released from the hospital, it might have made up for all the self-pitying that makes up the first half of the book. This book feels less like a reminiscence of an American adrift in a foreign country than a 'poor me' memoir of someone who had something extraordinary happen to them far from home. I'm glad Jack made it through and flourished, but this book is really a jumble of disjointed memories of something that happened long ago, without any fleshing out. I'm convinced if she weren't Denis Leary's wife, this book would never have seen the light of day. Perhaps Ann Leary will do better if she tries fiction, I'd be willing to read a novel, but won't recommend this book.