An entertaining miscellany by a sharp-eyed observer.

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SO HERE'S THE THING...

NOTES ON GROWING UP, GETTING OLDER, AND TRUSTING YOUR GUT

A self-described “goofball” cheerfully reflects on life.

Taking up from where she left off in her last essay collection, Mastromonaco (Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, 2017), Barack Obama’s former White House deputy chief of staff for operations, gathers essays, random thoughts, and interviews that add up to a merry gloss on politics, campaign work for John Kerry and Obama, her stint in the White House, dating (a guy who collected Beanie Babies, for example) and breaking up, watching Friends and Sex and the City, the health problem—irritable bowel syndrome—she wrote about in the previous book, how social media has changed politics, and many other topics, including Donald Trump. Although she was scolded by Amazon reviewers for TMI, she can’t help but return to the IBS theme, warning readers who may not “appreciate knowing the details of strangers’ gastrointestinal lives” to skip to her essay on getting her period. “I’m a forty-two-year-old woman with the diet of a picky seven-year-old and the bathroom habits of a seventy-two-year-old. What can I do but talk about it?” She also discusses her long, initially futile search to find comfortable underwear, which ended, happily, with “Gap stretch-cotton hipsters, size large.” The essays are interspersed with lists: favorite songs, things you should never say to your boss, what’s in her suitcase; and interviews with Susan Rice, Monica Lewinsky (a dear friend), Dan Pfeiffer (her Platonic Life Partner), and Chelsea Handler. The brief conversations are as frothy as the essays. Pfeiffer tells her that “the key to any lifelong friendship/platonic partnership is trust.” Rice encourages young women to “do what you are passionate about.” Mastromonaco surely has followed that advice, and in looking back on her career, she reflects thoughtfully on her decision not to have a child. Most pieces are funny and many, insightful. “If I’ve learned anything in my life,” she writes, “it’s that the line between nonsense and wisdom is very thin.”

An entertaining miscellany by a sharp-eyed observer.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3155-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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