Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life by Sutton Foster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Hooked by Sutton Foster dives deep into the Broadway and TV star’s poignant moments punctuated by her love for crafting and how it helped her stay sane.

Known for her head-turning Broadway starring roles and her turn in sexy bookish TV series Younger where she plays a 40-something passing as a millennial, Sutton Foster has written a memoir about her rise in entertainment and how crocheting helped along the way. Growing up in the South then the Midwest, she moved often with her family that included her older brother Hunter, also a Broadway veteran; their agoraphobic mother, and their father who seemed to be under the thumb of his wife’s undiagnosed mental health condition. Though her mother doesn’t want to face society, Sutton and her brother are placed in youth theater to exercise their energy. They fall in love with the theater, and we go on the adventure of seeing Sutton evolve into a professional actor at seventeen. She goes on her first tour in her senior year of high school for a musical, where she grows homesick amid battling catty girls who despise her energy. After dropping out of Carnegie Mellon, she finds herself lost trying to figure out her next step, so she journals and crochets. She eventually returns to her theater work where her risk of being the understudy of the Broadway run of Thoroughly Modern Millie leads to her becoming the lead and winning her first Tony Award.

The crafting is threaded throughout her story. She describes some of her hardest moments and how crafting became therapy. A chunk of her latter story surrounds her fertility hardships. While deciding on adoption, she is honest about the anxiety of becoming her mother and not becoming a mother in case the birth mother decides to keep the baby. All those swirling emotions motivates her to sew a blanket for her potential daughter. She stops at one point when she hears a friend fails to secure the baby she intended to adopt; crocheting the blanket when her adoption is up in the air is too much to bear.

Another underlying theme of the memoir is Sutton’s relationship with her mother. She learns crafting from her mother, recalling a stitched Strawberry Shortcake bookmark she received.

That was during the peak of my obsession with the red-haired cartoon character. I had coloring books, figurines, and even a garbage pail, all store-bought. I find it so moving that my mother took the time to meticulously stitch that sweet girl in her poufy pink bonnet and white frilly apron into existence. She added my first and last name in red thread and a row of hearts in pink and green, then finished the piece with a calico border. I don’t recall my mother saying “I love you” often. But I do know that she poured her love for me into that bookmark.

The palpable pain jumps through the author’s voice and on the pages of the book of how she had a difficult relationship with her mother and how that impacted the entire family dynamic and followed her onstage. She talks about how her mother only saw her once on Broadway while her high school drama teacher flew to see her perform on several occasions. Her mother didn’t acknowledge her brother’s eventual wife or talk to her brother for years because the couple had lived together before marriage “in sin.” After her mother’s death, Sutton soon starts her own family in fear she will become the mother she had. She also witnesses her father coming out of his unintended shell and living the life he always wanted.

Overall, the crafty memoir hits the emotional nerve mostly with the author’s relationship with the stage and the family she loves. The crocheting adventures and recipes seem to be a bit detached from the story. This is really a story of following your dreams. Sutton even has a few run-ins with her idol, Broadway and TV actress Patti LuPone, and conducts an interview featured in the book. So while you may want to head to your local craft store and learn to crochet to reduce anxiety like the author, you’ll connect more with her inspirational backstory.

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