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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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.


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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