An excellent primary source for readers of military history, somewhat marred by Carroll’s editorial intrusions.

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WAR LETTERS

EXTRAORDINARY CORRESPONDENCE FROM AMERICAN WARS

Poignant letters from American servicemen and their families in the midst of war.

Hindsight plays a major role in reading these letters. Many of the authors featured were dead by the time the addressees received their messages. Writing from the Civil War to the Gulf is included, with the different mentalities of each era shining through. In the War Between the States, writers committ more spelling errors and describe their campaigns extensively, including stories of meeting the enemy in person. In WWI, writers seem bewildered by the events they experience: Bombarded from afar while in trenches or sailing through waters infested with submarines, soldiers and sailors are more likely to describe their cramped living quarters and conditions in medical tents than actual combat. By Korea and Vietnam, servicemen’s letters become filled with appeals to families—either requesting guidance in conflicts they can’t understand or trying to convince Mom and Dad that the Communist menace must be stopped. Heroics are present, too, but in a mundane light. “Before we took the hill, we had a gigantic machine gun duel, and believe it or not, I went to sleep in No Man’s Land for 45 minutes,” writes an infantryman who participated in the invasion of Okinawa in WWII. After the letter, which includes much description of bloodshed, Carroll appends a note saying that military planners at the time expected far worse fighting in the invasion of Japan, which was put off with the development of the nuclear bomb. These notes sometimes provide essential context for the letters they follow, but they also occasionally feel like cheap shots. One becomes enthralled by a desperate, earnest, lonely fighting man’s letter to his wife or parents—then Carroll steps in and tells us that the man died in this or that historic battle. The weakness of the notes is testament to the strength of the letters.

An excellent primary source for readers of military history, somewhat marred by Carroll’s editorial intrusions.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7432-0294-5

Page Count: 476

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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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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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