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When you look at actor Rob Lowe - especially on the cover of his new book, "Love Life" - you can't help but think that guy has it all: looks, talent, a great marriage and family, and a successful career. But if you delve into his prose, you'll likely think he's earned it.
In "Love Life," Lowe was challenged to top his acclaimed best-seller, "Stories I Only Tell My Friends," without relying on the safe, linear structure of an autobiography. But if there's one thing the new book confirms, it's how much Lowe relishes a challenge.
The title is a bit of a tease. "Love Life" isn't a noun; it's a command. Lowe aims to inspire readers to take chances - and appreciate what they have. Part self-help, part Acting 101, part-memoir, the book is a reflection of Lowe's layered life. He skillfully weaves stories together with common themes and a philosophical perspective.
Lowe could have written an entertaining book on life behind the scenes in Hollywood, but it's clear he wants to connect with readers by choosing experiences that become teaching moments. The book is brimming with lessons about being present, saying "yes" to life, taking risks and getting up after failure.
Fans who fear he gave up all the good stuff in the first book will be pleasantly surprised.
"Love Life" is catnip for pop culture addicts. Lowe names some names (his torturous kissing scene with singer Jewel and actor Tom Sizemore's personal meltdown are two examples), but is coy about other famous "friends" - tantalizing readers with only hints of the players in some juicy stories.
Lowe talks about the craft of acting, offering tips on how to eat, use props and ad-lib on camera. He often reminds readers that entertainment is a business and success is fleeting. That's driven home in the failure of two shows he produced and starred in, even turning down the part Patrick Dempsey made into McDreamy in "Grey's Anatomy" for a series that never got past a few episodes. But every experience helps him grow. "The only time you flop is when you don't learn something," he writes.
A contender in movies, TV and politics, Lowe meets Prince William and Kate, exchanges notes with former President Bill Clinton and pals around with scores of A-list celebrities. But instead of just name-dropping, he has a way of making the reader feel like he sneaked us in his shirt pocket and took us along for the ride.
As he stares at Warren Beatty's Oscar at the legend's home, or turns down Madonna for a dance at the Palladium, or is in the room with Arnold Schwarzenegger as he won the California gubernatorial election, he's looking over at us and whispering, "Can you believe this?!"
He manages to make being Rob Lowe somehow seem normal.
Lowe and his wife of 23 years, Sheryl, raised their two sons outside of Los Angeles, where he chaperones school trips, coaches baseball and stars in his own ghost stories.
He takes fatherhood seriously. In one touching essay, he isn't afraid to admit he's an emotional wreck about his child leaving home. He writes beautifully about the pain of letting go and his pride in his accomplished son getting a chance at the college experience that Lowe never had.
"Love Life" is a love letter to his family. Lowe writes adoringly about his wife and credits her with getting him through some of the darkest moments, including his 1990 stint in rehab for alcohol abuse. The honest and powerful chapter on his rehab experience provides insight into Lowe's choices and sensibility.
"When I changed my life, when I sobered up, when I saw that show business couldn't fill that place that was empty, those buried feelings rose, and having found the love of the right woman, I started a family of my own. The best chapter of my life began," he writes.