When author F. Scott Fitzgerald dared opine, "There are no second acts in American lives," he never could have predicted the age of the tell-all autobiography.
These days, the question begs, how many memoirs can you get out of one American life?
Natalie Cole's answer: At least two.
First there was the 2000 personal account, "Angel on My Shoulder," a hell-and-back journey that climaxed with freebasing cocaine in a burning building before she found religion.
At the time, it seemed like the demons had been purged and she was born again.
Now, the daughter of Nat "King" Cole has released the book, "Love Brought Me Back: A Journey of Loss and Gain," sharing the story of her near-death battle with Hepatitis C decades after sharing needles to shoot up heroin.
Unable to escape the past, her liver and kidneys are forced to fight "something I did a lifetime ago," she writes in the book. When she sums up her struggle, it's in musical terms: "The blues have a life of their own. They don't want to go away. They want to linger and last. They want to keep you in isolation."
Before Cole returns to the Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa this weekend to revive her father's classics, her own R&B hits and a round of Christmas standards, she's busy touring the media circuit with her latest cautionary tale. On "The View," she talked about her Hep C diagnosis in 2008 and the shock of learning she would need a kidney transplant. On CNN, she told Larry King about a dying stranger who gave her new life: "I just thought that the whole thing was just — it was very overwhelming. It was a very emotional time, especially because Patty and I already had so much in common. We had both lost our sisters, you know, so I knew how she felt already."
Written as a tale of two pairs of sisters, the memoir follows Natalie and her older sister Cooke, who falls into a coma and is dying as Natalie has to leave her side to get a kidney transplant. Their worlds collide with fellow Los Angeleno Patty Argueta and her sister, Jessica, who dies of childbirth complications. When Patty gives the go-ahead to donate her sister's organs, she has no idea the kidney will go to the nine-time Grammy winner (even though her aunt, a nurse at Cedars-Sinai hospital, had treated Cole). But, as she would later share with Larry King, "Jessica liked the duet &‘Unforgettable' to the point that the CD doesn't exist anymore, because we've run it over and over."
A harrowing account of redemption and selflessness, the memoir occasionally slows down for enlightening biographical tidbits, like how Natalie got the nickname Sweetie (it matched the cadence of Cooke, pronounced "Cookie"); that her father never played his albums at home, except for the Christmas recordings; and when Bob Dylan found out she was going to record "Gotta Serve Somebody," he added extra lyrics.
At 60, she's already outlived her father by 15 years. Now, the publishing world is probably wondering — could there be a third memoir in the making, perhaps a final act?
"I'm not done yet," Cole recently told mycentralnewjersey.com. "There's no reason to stop. In some ways, I feel like I'm just getting started. There's nothing else I would rather do than this."