``I REMAIN IN DARKNESS''

A small, powerful, and overwritten memoir of a mother’s slow deterioration and death in a nursing home. Ernaux is a prize winning author (A Man’s Place, 1992, also translated by Leslie) whose mother had been strict, controlling, but loving. When her aging, widowed mother first fell ill, Ernaux took her home. However, as her mother’s senility turned into mind-wasting Alzheimer’s disease, the author had her placed in an old-age home, where she visited and wrote this journal. This emotionally charged scenario has been handled before, notably in Rodger Kamenetz’s Terra Infirma (1998). Erneaux’s memoir is at its most effecting when describing details, such as her mother losing her glasses, dentures, modesty, posture, and possessiveness—rather than telling us she’s losing her mind and body. Too often, however, poignant scenes are dampened by the memoirist’s insistence on spelling things out. She precedes the heartbreaking realization that her mother “thinks that I have come to take her away and that she is going to leave this place” with the neon signs indicating that “it’s beyond sadness” and promising “painful moments.” Her disheveled mother is soiled with excrement, has to be spoon-fed, her right hand “grasping the left like an unknown object,— yet Ernaux remarks: “I have no idea what she thought of sex or how she made love.” The author is either in deep trouble or is French. Readers of all nationalities will sympathize with Ernaux’s having to be her mother’s mother, the good and bad memories of her girlhood evoked by these horrific scenes and emotions, and her tortured feelings of guilt in moments when she hates this former provider for draining her so. The pain doesn’t ease at journal’s end, when Ernaux’s mother abruptly passes away. The impact of this courageous, sometimes unsubtle little book is sure to not pass away quickly.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1999

ISBN: 1-58322-014-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1999

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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