An unflinching look at the consequences and rewards of open adoption, written with care and precision.

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GOD AND JETFIRE

CONFESSIONS OF A BIRTH MOTHER

If giving up a child for adoption leaves a void in the mother’s life, what happens when she remains an active part of the child’s life afterward? That void must be carried with her.

When landscape architect Seek became pregnant at age 22, she and her boyfriend opted for an “open” adoption, an arrangement in which the biological and adoptive families maintain some degree of contact. Finding a suitable couple presented numerous challenges, but giving Jonathan to his new parents while remaining part of the family mosaic proved much harder. A counselor warned the author that the “window of open adoption would open both ways.” Just as she would see any difficulties the adoptive parents faced, her own pain and ambivalence would no longer be private. Seek writes in a style that feels intimate one moment, sterile the next, and she sharply renders her feelings for her son; giving birth, “I felt that my soul had stepped out and sat beside me.” The author marveled at the insignificance of her architecture major compared to the thrill of “building” a human being. Yet descriptions of the birth father, Jevn, are hard to decipher. Seek broke off the relationship and insisted on adoption, but her frustration with Jevn comes to the fore often, despite (or because of?) some lingering fondness. Numerous moves for school and work overlapped with visits to Jonathan and his growing family; the author drives home the point that even as life moves on, it’s a life cleft in two. What might have been was reduced to catching up on the latest developmental milestone, comparing her son with his siblings, and waiting for him to pose the inevitable question: why? She ultimately takes heart seeing her son thrive in a happy home, recognizing that she could not have offered the same stability.

An unflinching look at the consequences and rewards of open adoption, written with care and precision.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-16445-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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