A potent and compassionate, if meandering, chronicle of a family in crisis.



A tragic suicide cripples a close-knit family in this memoir.

Inspired by the wave of child sexual predation allegations that rattled the 1980s and early ’90s, reporter, freelance editor, and author Tallmadge (Tell It Like It Is, 1998) details the tragic story of how that hysteria, coupled with mental instabilities, took the life of her “deeply troubled,” 23-year-old niece, Michelle. This book, visceral and urgently depicted, creates an intensive portrait of a family in the throes of misfortune and desperation. The clan became helpless against Michelle’s psychological damage and inner turmoil; Tallmadge details her niece’s suicide shortly after her discharge from a state psychiatric facility. The author weaves her own history into that of her niece, whom she monitored from afar, in a poignant attempt to draw some connection or shed light on the reasons Michelle took her life. As Michelle matured, her volatility became problematic while Tallmadge’s secular, anti-establishment, feminist leanings in rural Oregon opposed those of her brother and his family’s Mormon belief system in Utah. Though the narrative’s jerky, unreliable timeline is too haphazardly arranged to allow the author’s ordeal to achieve a cohesive flow, her story remains compelling nonetheless. By the early 1980s, teenage Michelle became riddled with multiple personalities, depression, severe bulimia, and harrowing memories of ritualistic sexual abuse by a satanic cult that preyed on her when she was a young girl; she also confessed to being gang-raped at 13. The story winds its way downward into darker realms as Michelle’s behavior and appearance became increasingly sinister and her chilling cult abuse allegations multiplied. While Michelle’s parents became more frustrated and helpless, Tallmadge emerged determined to find answers through in-depth research. Later, after her niece’s death, she also relied on her memory of events alongside Michelle’s letters and journals written in the mid-’80s to make some sense of her psychological decline. The author’s crisis of conscience between Michelle’s testimony and what Tallmadge believed in her heart to be true forms the memoir’s core as the powerful book also astutely addresses the issues of social panic and mental illness and how both can inflict great pain and destroy lives.

A potent and compassionate, if meandering, chronicle of a family in crisis.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-330-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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 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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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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