Book Review: “Part of My World” by Jodi Benson
Part of My World: What I’ve Learned from The Little Mermaid about Love, Faith, and Finding My Voice
Authors: Jodi Benson, Carol Traver
Hardcover, 304 pages, Tyndale Momentum, List Price: $25.99
“And I just love her! I love how she loves life. I love how she savors every moment and delights in every experience. I love the way she sees the beauty in even the most mundane things. I mean, honestly, who else could get that excited about a fork?” –Jodi Benson on Ariel
In Part of My World, Jodi Benson gives readers a look into her life, both personal and professional, and the various bumps and dips she has experienced on the road from a singing six-year-old to a Disney legend with kids of her own. Despite encountering some unexpected twists and challenges, Benson relates her work overcoming them with the help of the family and friends and faith that continually support her.
Although The Little Mermaid was only one role in her long career in film and musical theater, it is clearly the one she is best known for, and with around five chapters devoted to her experiences voicing Ariel it makes up about 20% of the book. The chapters preceding it tell the story of her work to get trained and established as a working performer, while the chapters afterwards largely deal with her trials and joys sustaining her marriage to fellow performer Ray Benson and starting her family.
While the book brims over with her innate positivity, Benson doesn’t shy away from depicting her life as having distinctly unmagical moments, such as her heartbreak over her two miscarriages and the untimely loss of her niece to cancer. Her reliance on her faith in God is shown to be her major source of spiritual strength in such times.
As the actress who was there at the very start of the Disney Animation Renaissance, Benson had a chance to form relationships with many of the personalities pivotal to that time period, and the glimpses she gives us of the ones who are gone now are fascinating. People like Howard Ashman, who she knew from the time she auditioned for him in the musical Smile to the last time she saw him in the hospital shortly before he passed away, and Roy Disney are shown as being as smart and supportive and genial in real life, as they always seemed to be on camera.
By the end of the book, readers have a better picture of who the voice is, behind their favorite red-haired daughter of Triton: A woman who has lived a life filled with both beauty and sorrow, but always in devotion to her faith in God. While from less-authentic sources, her strong religious beliefs might have come off as aggressively proselytizing, Benson makes it clear that not only does she accept others of different mindsets, but that she herself occasionally struggles to find meaning within it when faced with life’s seemingly senseless tragedies. Ultimately however, we are given to understand that her faith, like her life, is a work in progress–one we will hopefully get many more years to watch as she continues to give a mermaid her voice.
[An advance pdf of this book was provided for review purposes without restriction on thoughts or opinions.]
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