Calhoun ends with a toast that she actually would give, and it’s wise and lovely.

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WEDDING TOASTS I'LL NEVER GIVE

True love never runs smooth according to these essays, which could pass as a memoir of the author’s own marriage.

Calhoun made her well-received debut with St. Marks Is Dead (2015), an impressive volume of journalistic research that blended the historical with the personal. This is a slighter work, though not the sort that rock critics would call a sophomore slump. Title aside, this will resonate most strongly not with those about to get married but with those who have been married awhile, even happily so, but who deal with the sort of struggles and tensions that all married couples do. After a fight with her husband, when Calhoun asked her mother the key to staying married, she received the reply: “ ‘You don’t get divorced.’ At the time, I thought her response flip, but now I consider it wise.” A long-married woman told her, “ ‘the first twenty years are the hardest’….At the time I thought she was joking. She was not.” Having yet to hit the 20-year mark in a marriage that appears stable, the author approaches her subject not as the voice of wisdom and experience but as someone in the same trenches who can comfort her married readers that they are not alone. She still feels (and occasionally submits to) strong attractions to the opposite gender, and she resents it when her husband does as well. When she writes of a book-tour encounter, “we’d made out, but not too much—unless you think that anything when you’re married to someone else is too much, in which case this was definitely way too much,” readers may wonder about Calhoun’s maturity. But she’s engaging and all-too-human, chronicling the strains of being together, being apart, sharing a rental car, screwing up finances, raising a son, and somehow staying together in spite of (and maybe because of) it all.

Calhoun ends with a toast that she actually would give, and it’s wise and lovely.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-25479-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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