No one matches me in my admiration for Ashley Judd. From her lead role debut in Ruby in Paradise to her superb turn in Heat, to her dignity-stripping appearance in Bug, Judd has proven herself to be an intense and versatile actress, evincing the rare ability to show believable rage on screen. Her fans have stuck with her from powerful performances in thrillers such as Kiss the Girls and Double Jeopardy through thankless "wife" roles in things like A Time to Kill, to utter nonsense such as Eye of the Beholder and Twisted. She is now happily married to an international racecar driver and lives in Tennessee, and her movie career unwinds at a steady film-a-year pace, while she travels to the world's hot spots offering succor to kids via Population Services International, an organization that essentially distributes condoms to stem the spread of AIDS.

Now she has written a book. I wish she hadn't.

The Judds are well represented in the publishing industry: Mom has self-help, cookbooks, and a delusional memoir; Wynonna has an autobiography; there are books about the Judd clan and Ashley. Now Ashley gets into the act with All That Is Bitter and Sweet: A Memoir (Ballantine), in which she talks about her troubled childhood and depression, but mostly about her work with the PSI, which her memoir really exists to support. Still, there are small bits of subtle show biz gossip to glean:

• Though Southern by trade and inclination, Ashley was actually born in California. Her parents are Michael and Diana Ciminella, but they divorced in 1972, and Diana soon became Naomi Judd. Michael is not the father of her older sister Christina (AKA Wynonna), however—Mom got pregnant from another kid in high school in Kentucky, and married unloved suitor Michael for security. Both sides of her parents' families are rife with such soap opera events as gambling, murder, fatal illnesses, and incest.

• One of mom's live-in boyfriends was an aspiring actor with a criminal record, a heroin addict who used to "knock us girls around." He was later jailed on a parole violation.

• Ashley was molested by a small town businessman who "offered me a quarter for the pinball machine at the pizza place if I'd sit on his lap," and then Frenched her.

• When she was 16, she played around with her mom's gun, contemplating suicide.

• Before getting famous, Naomi talked herself and Wynonna onto Merle Haggard's tour bus as groupies.

• As an aspiring model for two months in Japan, Ashley was molested by her boss, raped by a "creepy Frenchman," and pressured unsuccessfully by a male model to give him a blowjob.

• The Judds' manager is a guy named Ken Stilts. "Daddy Ken, as we all called him, was a condescending, hard drinking patriarchal figure who always had to be right." He publically humiliated Wynonna for getting a tattoo.

The bulk of Bitter is Judd's Angelina Jolie-esque globe-trotting public service work, and festooned with quotes from Kahlil Gibran and Gandhi and her thoughts on Christianity, yoga, and depression. There are also many trivial passages: She spends two or three pages on a lost cat named Percy. Ms Judd's memoir is, perhaps, a reminder that it;s usually best to "know" your favorite stars only through the screen.