A hilarious remembrance of a life-changing malady.


The Dangers of Pimento Cheese

A stroke survivor recounts his struggles in and out of the hospital in this debut book.

In 2006, Ellis was enjoying a pimento cheese sandwich, trying to figure out with his wife, Cristie, what DVD to watch that evening. Suddenly, his speech became muddled and his face contorted, and Cristie realized he was in the throes of a stroke. The author was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he spent the next four days unconscious, his wife standing a nervous vigil by his side. Ellis—a professional copywriter—recounts the months that followed in the hospital, a messy mixture of convalescence, rehabilitation, and imprisonment. Some of the struggle is physical: the rigors of occupational therapy, the relearning of basic mechanical functions including speech, an accommodation of some permanent disability. Much of it, though, is psychological: making peace with a loss of privacy and the challenge to modesty that come with hospital life, the reliance upon a daily diet of pharmaceuticals, the fear of a second stroke. Ellis liberally dispenses advice to the reader about how to cope with the aftermath of a stroke, how to avoid one in the first place, and how to manage daily life trapped in a medical institution, almost always delivered whimsically: “It wasn’t until three weeks prior to being released that I discovered the secret of surviving in a hospital room for months. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Travel Channel!” He also wryly includes a recipe for Southern-style pimento cheese. The author, who recalls his trials with humor and verve, furnishes guidance on how to be an effective medical consumer, navigating the sometimes coldly indifferent bureaucracy of the medical industry. Ellis eventually returned to work as a freelancer, and even stars in a public service announcement on stroke symptom awareness. The book doubles as a memoir and a cautionary tale—a kind of instructional manual constructed out of personal experience. Ellis’ writing beautifully softens the sometimes frightening subject matter with the emolument of comedy, relating real wisdom with wit. This is an unusually cheery work written about a medical calamity, and every page radiates gratitude for the life the author rebuilt.

A hilarious remembrance of a life-changing malady.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5320-0148-2

Page Count: 140

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

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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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