A graceful narrative that seamlessly interweaves philosophical reflections and intimate revelations.

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THE FUTILITARIANS

OUR YEAR OF THINKING, DRINKING, GRIEVING, AND READING

An engrossing memoir chronicles a search for spiritual healing.

In 2011, happily married and the mother of two children, journalist Gisleson (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts; co-editor: How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide from a Work in Progress, 2010) was beset by a “persistent, daily, unsettling dread,” a feeling, “vaguely, that everything was wrong.” When a close friend asked her to “sit down and talk through some philosophical issues one-on-one,” she suggested forming a group instead: other friends, too, seemed in flux and on edge, and the author hoped that a monthly meeting, discussing relevant readings, would help. They called themselves the Existentialist Crisis Reading Group, nicknamed the Futilitarians. Chosen by the dozen or so members, readings ranged from Ecclesiastes to James Baldwin, King Lear to Fight Club and included philosophy, fiction, essays, poetry, biography, memoir, and even a movie. (The author appends the group’s reading list.) As Gisleson conveys her responses to these disparate readings, she reveals the events of her life that generated her “messy thoughts and feelings.” When she was in her late 20s, her youngest sister, Rebecca, committed suicide; a year and a half later, Rebecca’s identical twin, Rachel, also killed herself; and, more recently, her father succumbed to leukemia. Added to these was the devastation to her native New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina. Rebecca’s death left her shattered. “Unmarried, insecure, and chronically confused,” Gisleson writes, “I became paralyzed in my personal life, unable to make good decisions to move things forward.” Rachel’s death compounded those feelings, preoccupying the author for years. “I harbor a terrible, guilty suspicion,” she writes, “that the deaths of my sisters, their disappearance from the family structure,” allowed the remaining siblings “to do things we might not otherwise have ventured.” Rebecca and Rachel, their life choices, and mental illness are central to Gisleson’s story, as is her father, an opinionated, hard-drinking lawyer whose pro bono work for death row inmates the author seeks to understand.

A graceful narrative that seamlessly interweaves philosophical reflections and intimate revelations.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-39390-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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

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.

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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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