An often fascinating, if uneven, glimpse into the world of a bestselling author.

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THE WISDOM WORDS AND WAYWARD WAYS OF M. SCOTT PECK, "THE NATION'S SHRINK"

A disdainful biography of popular psychiatrist Morgan Scott Peck (1936-2005) by journalist Jones (The National Catholic Reporter at Fifty, 2014, etc.).

Peck, the author of 15 books, is best known for his debut, the groundbreaking 1978 bestseller The Road Less Traveled: a New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. The work catapulted Peck from being a private-practice psychiatrist to a celebrity who commanded exorbitant fees on speaking tours. Jones traces Peck’s childhood and young adulthood before skipping to his years as a writer and speaker, finally focusing on his last years. He writes that Peck’s wealthy “WASP” upbringing in midcentury New York City informed his entire life. Peck’s troubled relationships with his domineering father and bullying older brother, in Jones’ opinion, dictated Peck’s future neuroses: “Peck was a control freak with an addictive personality, a narcissist with a gift,” he writes. (Other people he quotes in this book similarly characterize Peck as self-centered.) Educated at top-tier pillars of education, including Phillips Exeter Academy, Middlebury College, and Harvard University, Peck broke free from the East Coast by attending medical school in Cleveland, Ohio. By then, he’d married Lily Ho, a Chinese woman, to his parents’ disapproval; her parents equally opposed the marriage. He joined the Army, and, after several years of living as a military family, the couple and their three children settled in Connecticut—mere miles from Peck’s childhood summer home. Overall, Jones’ account of Peck’s life, a revised version of his 2007 book The Road He Travelled, provides readers with an engaging look into 20th-century U.S. history, from Peck’s father’s association with John Foster Dulles at law firm Sullivan & Cromwell to Peck’s own service during the Vietnam War. However, there’s some unevenness in Jones’ telling of the events of Peck’s life, as it focuses heavily on Peck’s childhood and dysfunctional family relationships, then glosses over decades to spend an inordinate amount of time recounting Peck’s last year and the feud between Peck’s second wife, Kathy, and his executive secretary, Gail Puterbaugh. Jones’ prose style also tends to time-hop; for example, it makes reference to Peck’s divorce from his wife Lily before he’s even married to her and then gives the divorce itself quick treatment when it occurs chronologically. As a result, readers may hunger to discover what Jones left out.

An often fascinating, if uneven, glimpse into the world of a bestselling author.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Capparoe Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

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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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