Molly Shannon's tragedy and perseverance in 'Hello, Molly!'

This cover image released by Ecco shows "Hello Molly!" by Molly Shannon. (Ecco via AP) (Uncredited)

NEW YORK – “Hello, Molly! A Memoir” by Molly Shannon (Ecco)

Molly Shannon made a name for herself as a standout performer on “Saturday Night Live,” star of the movie “Superstar” featuring her "SNL" character Mary Katherine Gallagher, and playing an eager-to-please stage mom in the sitcom “The Other Two.”

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But before the professional successes, Shannon had to overcome an enormous tragedy, she details in her new memoir, “Hello, Molly!” which she wrote with Sean Wilsey.

When she was just 4, her whole family was involved in a horrendous car accident that killed her mother, younger sister and cousin. Her father, who survived, was driving after drinking earlier in the day.

“My whole life changed in an instant,” she writes.

Though devastated by the loss of her mother at such a young age, Shannon found solace in performing in school plays and community shows while growing up in the Irish-Catholic community in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio. She also found comfort in a close bond with her sister, Mary, who also survived the accident.

She remained close with her father Jim, a charismatic but unstable man who is haunted by the accident. He encourages her adventurous performer side, but he can also be suffocating and fly off the handle into a rage at a moments’ notice. She later says many of her characters are partly based on her larger-than-life father.

Shannon peppers the memoir with inside-showbusiness anecdotes that make the memoir a hard-to-put down page turner. She recounts waiting tables for Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts while she awaits her big break and landing auditions in Hollywood by calling agents and pretending to be David Mamet’s assistant. More disturbingly, she recalls an unscrupulous manager setting her up with an 18-year-old Gary Coleman who harasses her.

After a few years of trying to make it in L.A., she finally gets her big break, an audition with Lorne Michaels for “Saturday Night Live.” She’s passed over her first time, but a second audition lands her the gig. She spends six seasons on the show with fellow cast members including Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Ana Gasteyer and Tracy Morgan.

She left in 2001, not because she had another job lined up, but because she wanted to finally have time to have a personal life. “I wanted to get coffee with friends and start a family,” she says. She now has two children with her husband, Fritz – successfully becoming the mother she always dreamed of being.

“Hello, Molly!” paints a portrait of a resilient spirit persevering through tragedy and the cutthroat world of fame to build a fulfilling life for herself.

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