Some nuggets of insight are overwhelmed by a rambling, unavailing narrative.

AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY

STORIES FROM THE BYWAYS OF AMERICAN WOMEN AND RELIGION

Women on the fringes of the spiritual world.

In her first book, Shirk (Women’s Studies, English, and Creative Writing/Pratt Institute) seeks to examine why American women have “had to find their own ways [to divinity] outside the prescribed patriarchal orders,” but the narrative is too autobiographical and scattered to fully deliver on that promise. The author, whose eccentric family has roots in both the early Anabaptist movement and the Christian Science church, weaves her own journey of spiritual discovery throughout the book. Tied only to the edges of faith traditions, her journey leaves her mostly without answers. “If I have learned anything,” she notes, “it’s that the truth shifts. The modes by which to interrogate it must always change, and are always changing.” Each chapter revolves erratically around a central theme. In some cases, those themes fit her thesis well—e.g., explorations of early Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, and New Orleans voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. In some cases, the tie is more tenuous, as in her chapter on Sojourner Truth, in which Shirk compares Truth to her own grandmother. A chapter on Flannery O’Connor is obscured by a focus on New York City, and other chapters have little apparent bearing on the subject matter. In one chapter, the author spends pages on the subject of smoking, and another focuses on her brother’s mental illness. Feminism, family relations, and other similar subjects come into play, but the digressions serve only to pull readers away from the author’s main subject, and the occasional profanity sprinkled throughout seems forced. Rather than a book about women who have acted as spiritual leaders, this is a story about the author and her own search for identity.

Some nuggets of insight are overwhelmed by a rambling, unavailing narrative.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61902-953-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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UNTAMED

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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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