These poignant words frame April Kirkwood’s book Big Girls Do Cry: My Love Affair with Frankie Valli. Kirkwood writes with raw honesty as she holds up a mirror to her life, recounting her long-term relationship with musical icon Frankie Valli as well as other relationships that helped shape her life. The book is a fascinating, often painful journey of a woman born and bred with Midwestern sensibilities who meets Valli at a very young age and quickly discovers that her heart and her destiny is linked to the famous singer. It is the life of a fractured fairytale. However, Kirkwood demonstrates the resiliency of the human spirit to survive despite life’s hard knocks. She understands the thrill and pain of living life in a fishbowl. While her book tells the story of a bygone era, the emotions and experiences that she relates is also a reflection of today’s society.
Writing in the first person, Kirkwood’ s story begins from a place of innocence: as a young child, she first meets Frankie Valli. Instantly, she is enamored by his music and the aura that surrounds him. Growing up on a farm with strong-willed women (who she dubs her “dream team”) her mother Beverly, Grandma Kata and Aunt Ginny, Kirkwood’s life is a search for perfection. She excels on the beauty pageant circuit. However, this is the burden of fulfilling her mother’s dreams. As Kirkwood writes, ” my family was made of strong-willed women…I was bred to bring home victory much like Seabiscuit.” She may have been admired, but her pageant victories kept her isolated from her peers and seemed to sentence her to a lonely, friendless childhood. The one constant in her life was Valli and her desire to become a part of his world.
In addition, Kirkwood’s relationship with her late mother was complicated. Describing her mother as the “Queen Bee,” Kirkwood writes about her mother’s authoritative personality and cites instances where her mother’s words were difficult to hear. However, she acknowledges her mother’s love for her.
Big Girls Do Cry will strike an emotional chord with the reader. It is examination of the human condition, those feelings that weave within the core of our being: love, pain, regret, insecurity. At times, the reader will get the impression that Kirkwood’s story was a painful, yet necessary story to write. Consequently, there’s a lingering understanding and appreciation by the reader for the book’s brutal honesty. It is a story of learning to love ourselves so that we can fully understand and give true love to others. It is a book that I would recommend people to read.