Posted by: KazK | May 7, 2011

Lessons From the Mountain


I have recently had the pleasure of reading Mary McDonough’s new book, Lessons From the Mountain: What I learned from Erin Walton.  

Mary is probably best known as the middle daughter Erin, from The Waltons.  In her book we get a glimpse into Mary’s family background, with her growing up in a close knit, Irish Catholic family in a home in the San Fernando Valley.  She leads us through the excitement of her first audition ever, for the role of Erin in The Homecoming, and explains to us of the joys of summer filming in heavy winter clothes.  And we think show business is a glamorous life!  As we know, The Homecoming was so successful that The Waltons was commissioned as a series, and so Mary went on to play Erin Walton for the duration of the nine Waltons seasons and the following six telemovies.  One thing perhaps not widely known is that Mary could have been the girl from The Exorcist, the role that eventually went to Linda Blair.

Throughout the book Mary explains what it was like for her growing up on television and I found these glimpses into the life of a child actor fascinating.  I love the “behind the scenes” stuff and Mary provides plenty of anecdotes.  With much honesty she also tells her readers how insecurities plagued her: insecurities about not being good enough, not understanding things, not being the right shape.  How many of us have suffered the same insecurities?  Yet we weren’t in the spotlight, being scrutinised by people from all over the world.

As a teacher myself I enjoyed reading of Mary’s “School Daze”, and we get a  glimpse  into how difficult it must have been trying to juggle the demands of acting work and the demands of being a student and getting all of the school work done. 

Much of the book is taken up with anecdotes, stories and reminisces about The Waltons.  Mary also discusses different television and stage appearances from early on in her life.  All this makes wonderful reading and is very fulfilling for Waltons fans.

The latter part of the book, however, is taken up with her struggle with Lupus, a condition which followed her having breast implant surgery.  Mary details the decline in her health following the implants and how she struggled to discover what was wrong with her.  She then shares with us her brave battle to become the voice for other women who had also become ill after having breast implants. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about Mary McDonough’s life.  Mary, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us.  I was lucky enough to meet Mary briefly at the 2007 Waltons reunion and was struck by how friendly and down to earth she was.  I have always enjoyed her work as Erin on The Waltons and other things I have seen her in.  Now that I have read her book I realize that she is an actor dedicated to her craft: someone who wants to learn all she can about acting and film making.  I have known of her short film “For the Love of May” for some time and would love to see it. Perhaps one day I’ll have the chance.  What a wonderful risk she took branching out in this new direction. 

I also admire the fact that Mary has become such a passionate voice for women who have suffered ill health following breast implants.  For many years she has shared her story and her research to help people understand how faulty implants have caused such hardship for so many women around the world.

You can read more about Mary on her website.  She has been, and is currently, doing lots of book signings all around the country.  Perhaps you’ll find her visiting near you.  Check out her schedule on the website.



  1. Karen,
    Thanks for the beautifully written review. Your friendship and support is a treasure.

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Beverly. It was an absolute pleasure to write the review. Karen.

  2. I love her stories about Will Geer, my favorite Waltons actor.

    • There’s lots of great stories right through it and it’s nice to know more about Will Geer.

  3. Love it!

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