Picks and Pans Review: A Father's Lament

updated 09/29/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/29/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Alec Baldwin

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"Many readers," writes Baldwin, "will ... dismiss this book as nothing more than the grumblings of an angry and bitter man." Well, yes. The 30 Rock star, who made headlines last spring after the vituperative voice mail he left his 11-year-old daughter hit the Web (a refresher: He called her "a rude, thoughtless little pig") does have preconceptions to overcome.

But here's the surprise: His book, though something of a mess, isn't just a rant. An account of the seven years he spent battling over custody issues with ex-wife Kim Basinger, Promise raises valid questions about the fairness of modern divorce court toward dads in particular. Baldwin claims it was "parental alienation syndrome"—Basinger's supposed undermining of him to daughter Ireland—that led him to the breaking point in '07. While that would in no way excuse the infamous voice mail (after which he says he contemplated suicide), he paints a convincing picture of his frustrations over canceled visits and unanswered phone calls.

Nonveterans of the divorce wars will tire of the book's procedural blow-by-blow, but Baldwin, for all his apparent hotheadedness, comes across as a guy who delights in his daughter, now 12. "As she grew," he writes, "we began sharing moments she could not have shared just a couple of months before ... laughing at a beat of [TV] humor more sophisticated than what the Powerpuff Girls had offered...." She changed so fast, and he missed too much of it.

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