A provocative and refreshingly honest redemption memoir.

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CHASING WATER

ELEGY OF AN OLYMPIAN

A celebrated Olympian recounts how he rose to the top of his sport, crashed, and found redemption.

Swimming became Ervin’s favorite childhood recreational outlet by accident. Later, it became a sport that transformed him into a prisoner of his own athletic gifts. This book, which tells his story through a narrative that interweaves the former gold medalist's memories with commentary by his friend and colleague Markides, reveals the extreme highs and lows that characterized Ervin's remarkable life and career. The “wildfire” son of a half-Jewish mother and African-American father, Ervin’s swimming talent, and personal rebelliousness, manifested early on. Frequently disobedient in school, he set his first swim record at age 10. A diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome in junior high school made the already wayward Ervin even more difficult to handle. However, it also seemed to offer “cognitive advantage[s] and nervy sensitivity” that made his swimming even more brilliant. His athletic prowess garnered him a place on the University of California’s swim team in the late 1990s and a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Olympics. Yet “failure after failure” in everything from personal relationships to school dogged him in the aftermath of his success. Beset by depression and lost to drinking, drug-taking, and other risky behaviors, Ervin auctioned off his gold medal, found temporary respite in Zen and Sufi mysticism, moved to New York, and learned how to play guitar. A job as a swim coach brought him back to the sport. Gradually, Ervin put the pieces of his life back together. He graduated from Berkeley a decade after he started and trained for a berth—which he won—on the 2012 U.S. swim team. The author never flinches at revealing his less-than-perfect past, and the humility he demonstrates at coming to terms with his own egotism and personal shortcomings makes the book frequently compelling.

A provocative and refreshingly honest redemption memoir.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61775-444-9

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Edge of Sports/Akashic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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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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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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