GIRLS ONLY

In the saucy short profiles she regularly turns out for the New York Times, Witchel displays a knack for breeziness that doesn't come so naturally here: Sustaining it for the length of a book means sometimes forcing it, and this time the subject is personal—the bonds and unresolved tensions among her mother, her sister, and herself. Alex is the ``middle of the perfection sandwich''; more, more, more would please Mommy (a.k.a. Wonder Woman); less would be easier on Phoebe, ten years Alex's junior, who would then ``have only one Supreme Being to worry about'' (Mommy). Apparently, it's not so cushy being the eldest (of four), the high achiever, the responsible one—and the one who had to mother the others while Wonder Woman (impelled by childhood polio to overcompensate) got her Ph.D. and went to work when nobody else in Scarsdale did. Which is why Alex chooses, adamantly, not to have kids of her own; besides, her plate is full enough, thank you, with work, husband (finally, at 33), plus two stepsons on the weekends. Desperate to become herself, Alex is up-front about needing to Separate from ``the human Swiss Army knife'' who can do it all—yet she keeps seeking Mommy out, seducing her with article-generating junkets (to a trendy motel in the Hamptons, the deluxe Stanhope in Manhattan, the home of simpatico actress June Havoc). Although she never owns up to resentment of Mommy, other angers come close to the slick surface: at Phoebe for coexisting in the Alex/Mommy world; at the nobler-than-thou friends who martyr their tired selves to rear their little geniuses (whereas, Alex shrugs almost redeemingly, she'd probably just have a regular baby). Women who see themselves in Witchel's mirror (``pushing middle age and wearing the same clothes I took my SATs in'') may be willing to give her the benefit of the doubts raised by her presumption of an audience for all of her privileged communications.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-43777-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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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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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