Skillfully portrays the bleakness of the prison system with an appreciation for the dark humor that allowed the author to...

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GULAG MEMOIRS

A former prisoner recounts his years in the Soviet gulag in this memoir.

In this English translation of reminiscences originally recorded in 1970, Sokolenko shares stories from his years of imprisonment for political offenses during the Stalin regime. (A biographical note explains that Sokolenko was exonerated in 1956, when it was concluded that there was no basis for his original conviction.) The narrative does not follow Sokolenko’s imprisonment chronologically but is made up of a series of vignettes, with Sokolenko blending his own experiences into the stories of his fellow prisoners and their guards. These true stories capture both the horrific experience and bitter humor of Russia under Stalin, as committed socialists, black-market businessmen and ordinary people struggled with the changing definition of “enemy of the state.” Sokolenko’s narrative clearly demonstrates that the corruption and absurdity of the Soviet system confronted prisoners inside the gulag as well as outside—Sokolenko was often forbidden to use his agricultural experience, even though the camp was expected to grow its own food; medicinal stores of vodka were used for a prison guards’ party; a corrupt and incompetent gulag administrator was finally removed from his position, only to be reinstated because it was a crime for anyone to challenge his commitment to the socialist cause. Throughout the book, the tone is matter-of-fact, allowing the events described, rather than any elegant prose, to work on readers’ emotions. This was a wise decision by the author, who does not overwhelm the prisoners’ anecdotes with unnecessary commentary. (In contrast, the book’s footnotes, which decipher for the contemporary reader many of the names and policies Sokolenko mentions, are a useful addition, and the text could easily have accommodated more.) The result is a clear, bracing depiction, but not a maudlin one, of one of the darker chapters of modern history.

Skillfully portrays the bleakness of the prison system with an appreciation for the dark humor that allowed the author to survive it.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475246896

Page Count: 156

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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