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Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir Paperback – October 21, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Reprint edition (October 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743412613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743412612
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Clark, author of 27 bestselling novels, has shifted gears and written a memoir that speaks directly to readers. The touching collection of anecdotes begins with a Depression-era childhood in the Bronx lacking in money but rich with love. The author's mother, who told everyone, "Mary is very gifted... [she's] going to be a successful writer," supplemented her income by renting out rooms with "kitchen privileges," and raised her children with selfless heroism, proving a shining example when Clark became a young widow, left to bring up five children on her own. The book proves particularly engaging when Clark tells of her writing group and the professor, William Byron Mowery, who taught her to think "what if" and "suppose" as a way of devising interesting plots. She conveys her courtship with her first husband sensitively and humorously, and writes of his death in honest, understated prose. Clark charts her literary road frankly, pointing out the numerous rejection slips and the failure of her first book, Aspire to the Heavens-the love story of George and Martha Washington-due to a misleading, uncommercial title. It's typical of her optimism that she considered it a triumph ("I knew... I had what it took to actually write a book"). Ranging from stories of illness and struggle to her happy 1996 marriage to Merrill Lynch CEO John Conheeney, this memoir shows what can be done when someone pursues her dreams, remains action-oriented and fights to overcome enormous obstacles. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Popular thriller writer Clark once struggled like many other writers to get her work noticed and published, and in her memoir, she shares both her story of this and other trials. Growing up during the Depression in New York, Mary was doted on by her loving parents and was often found playing with her two brothers, Joseph and John. Her father's death at 54 was the first tragedy of young Mary's life. Her mother was forced to take in lodgers to make ends meet, and a variety of eccentrics traipsed through the Higgins household. Mary opted for secretarial school over college, knowing that money was a constant concern for her family. After a few years as a secretary, Mary daringly decided to apply to be a flight attendant, and she spent a year flying around the world. She returned to marry Warren Clark, a dashing family friend who had captured her heart long ago. Together the pair had five children, and while caring for them, Mary diligently worked on her writing. She sent out story after story, facing the rejection that deters so many writers. Mary persevered, eventually getting a story accepted. But Warren's health was failing, and he died of a heart attack in 1964. Following his death, Mary took a job writing for a radio program, and eventually began working on the novels that brought her so much success. Clark's many fans will find her life just as interesting as her many novels. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

If I were to define myself in one sentence, I would say, "I'm a nice Irish Catholic girl from the Bronx."

I was a Christmas Eve baby all those years ago, the second of the three children of Nora and Luke Higgins. Mother was pushing forty when they married and my father was forty-two. My older brother was named Joseph. Nineteen months later I, Mary, was born. Three and a half years later, my little brother, John, came along.

We lived in a very nice section of the Bronx on a street off Pelham Parkway. I loved our house. I still love it. After my father died, when I was eleven, my mother had to sell it.

I went to Saint Francis Xavier Grammar School. Two years ago I went back and was Principal for a Day. Escorted by two of the tiniest children, I was led into the auditorium while the whole student body sang "Hello Mary. You're back where you belong." I still tear up thinking about it.

I was awarded a scholarship to Villa Maria Academy which is in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx, otherwise I couldn't have afforded to set foot in it.

I went to Woods Secretarial School and at eighteen had my first full-time job as Secretary to the creative director of Remington Rand's in-house advertising agency. If I were making that choice now I would have gone to college even though God knows we needed the income. On the other hand the three years I spent in Remington Rand was a tutorial in advertising which served me well when I was widowed with five small children. Another plus was that I left Remington to be a flight stewardess with Pan American Airways and when my contemporaries were seniors in college, I was flying to Europe, Africa and Asia.

Warren Clark and I were married on December 26, 1949 and had five children in the next eight years; Marilyn, Warren, David, Carol and Patricia. Warren died of a heart attack in 1964. The highest compliment I can pay my kids are that they are like him.

I sold my first short story when I was twenty-eight. It was alled 'Stowaway'. It had been rejected forty times before a magazine in Chicago bought it for one hundred dollars.

My first book was about George Washington. It was published in 1969 and disappeared without a trace. Three years ago Simon and Schuster co-published it with the Mount Vernon Historical Society and retitled 'Mount Vernon Love Story', it became a bestseller.

My first suspense novel 'Where Are the Children' was bought in 1974 for three thousand dollars by Simon and Schuster. Thirty-three books later, I'm still with S&S.

Time to wind up - at least for the present. As soon as I sold 'Children' I enrolled in Fordham College. Went there for five years at night and earned a B.A. in Philosophy. Summa cum laude, if you please.

I never thought I'd marry again but ten years ago I threw a cocktail party on St. Patrick's day. My daughter, Pat, urged me to invite John Conheeney. Her opening words about him were, "Have I got a hunk for you!" He came to the party and we were married eight months later.

I'm Honorary Chairman of FraXa Research. My grandson, David, has the Fragile X syndrome, which is the second leading cause of retardation after Downs Syndrome. Basically the brain of the people who have it can't send out the proper signals because there's a kind of short circuit in the synapses that carry the signals. We raise money for research with the goal of finding a medication that will work around that short circuit. I go all over the country to the fund-raisers as new chapters of FraXa are opened.

I'm always asked to name my favorite book. They're ALL my favorites. If there is one book that is very special to me, it is my memoir 'Kitchen Privileges' because writing it made me relive my early life including those first struggles to become a writer. I think 'Kitchen Privileges' is both tender and funny and it's me.

Customer Reviews

Mary Higgins Clark is my absolute favourite author.
Kenny Rogers
I received this book as a delicious Thanksgiving Day birthday gift and read it in a couple of hours.
A really delightful book with wonderful anecdotes and poignant glimpses into the author's life.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Mary Higgins Clark has been a best selling author of suspense for what seems forever though her first book was a bio of George and Martha Washington. Ms. Clark returns to the world of non-fiction with an autobiography that may be her best work to date. Ms. Clark warmly discusses her life growing up in the Bronx, a very harsh one due the Depression. Even more heartwarming is her "courtship" and first marriage that should have turned Ms. Clark into a romance writer instead of the queen of suspense. She follows this up with the tragedy of suddenly raising children, as a widow with income problems until her first sale brings in needed cash. Finally, she discusses her second chance at love with her second marriage.
Throughout the book, Ms. Clark displays her love for writing without padding fluff or an outrageous scandal. Instead the author's myriad of fans and readers who enjoy a well written insightful biography will take delight with this encouraging story that does not apologize for Ms. Clark following her dreams and encourages others to do likewise. For attaining one's dreams is how to attain happiness.
Harriet Klausner
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When an author achieves the success of Mary Higgins Clark, readers might assume her own personal story came wrapped in a neat package like one of her mysteries. But as all of Mary Higgins Clark's devoted fans know, she was not published till long after she was widowed with five young children. In KITCHEN PRIVILEGES, her memoir, she tells her remarkable story. We are often skeptical (and rightly so) about success stories; they can be a little too good to be true. But when confronted with Mary Higgins Clark's resilience, drive and determination, you will want to jump up from your chair --- and cheer her success.
Clark's writing here has the same honest, breezy style that makes her books such fun to read. Mary grew up in an Irish neighborhood in the Bronx where family was everything. Her dad died when she was still in grammar school, forcing the family to change its lifestyle quickly. Her mom took in boarders, offering them "Kitchen Privileges," which is where the book got its title. Life in the Bronx for Mary meant hours at the kitchen table listening to her aunts talk about family stories. Many of these became the characters and grist for her later stories.
Later in life she moved to New Jersey with her husband and young family. Both the Bronx and New Jersey have given comedians and jokesters plenty of material. As Mary says, "It has always amused me that I've had to defend the two places where I've spent most of my life, the Bronx and New Jersey."
Mary loved to write and she loved to read, and she approached life with a jaunty style that kept her striving for success --- and achieving it.
She also loved to act and, for a while, subsidized her family's income with appearances in television commercials.
Read more ›
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a young teenager, I discovered Mary Higgins Clark's first thriller "Where are the Children?" I was hooked. Although Clark has never been exceptionally deep or thought-provoking in her novels, she never fails to entertain. Her writing is concise and quick-moving, her plots full of intrigue and suspense.
I picked up "Kitchen Privileges" hoping for insight into Clark's background and the foundations of her writing career. In typical fashion, she skims through the decades of her long and rich life with entertaining anecdotes and brief glimpses of grief. She never fails to keep the pages moving, but she left me feeling like I'd waited for a five-course meal and discovered some tasty appetizers instead.
If you are a diehard Clark fan, you'll enjoy this opportunity to understand her a bit more. She gives us her life story in the same manner she gives us a fictional work--short, sweet, and not particularly filling. I was hoping for something deeper.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Kirkman on January 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Over the years, I have always enjoyed reading books by Mary Higgins Clark. So when I saw Kitchen Privleges, it immediately grabbed my interest.
The book begins with Mary as a young girl, growing up in the Bronz. She always knew she wanted to be a writer, and the gift of storytelling was a part of Mary's Irish ancestry. It followed naturally then that she would use her sharp eye, keen intelligence, and inquisitive nature to create stories about the people and things around her.
Along with all Americans, those who lived in New York City's borough of the Bronx suffered during the Depression. In this time, Mary's father died, her mother, deciding to open the family home to boarders, placed a discreet sign next to the front door that read, Furnished Rooms, Kitchen Privleges. Very shortly, the first in a succession of tenants arrived: a couple dodging bankruptcy who moved in with their wild-eyed boxer; a teacher who wept endlessly over her lost love; a deabeat who tripped over a lamp while trying to sneak out in the middle of the night.
The story continues from there all about the family's struggle to make ends meet. Mary also had many jobs before becoming the author she is today. She wrote many short stories first before writing real novels, and spoke of her many rejections before finally finding a publisher to accept her work.
She had two other brothers. One died in World War II, the other one became very ill and passed away at a young age. Later, she married Warren Clark, and had five children with him. One of which, Carol, is an author today, following in her mom's footsteps.
The book is very interesting and informative on one of the very best mystery-suspense authors today.
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