A shaggy but powerful work about a South Dakota family.

LOST WITHOUT THE RIVER

A writer examines her childhood in the rural Midwest in this debut memoir.

“If you ever come to these gently rolling hills in northeastern South Dakota,” writes Scoblic early in her book, “with the farmlands nestled near two clear lakes, decorated with the twisting of the Whetstone River, late May would be the time to make the trip.” In this land—beautiful and hard in different ways—the author began life as Barbara Hoffbeck, the seventh child of Roman Catholic farmers who had struggled through the Depression. Growing up in the 1940s, Scoblic experienced a childhood that was in some ways picturesque: picking the strawberries that grew on the family’s property and catching snapping turtles with one of her many brothers. But there were tragedies, too, as when the author’s oldest sister, who had no control “over her muscles” and lived in a crib, died when Scoblic was 7 years old. In addition, two of the author’s siblings were sent to live with her grandparents. Scoblic wanted more for herself than the difficult road of her parents, and she eventually went to college, served in the Peace Corps, and settled permanently in New York City. Yet the lives of her parents, siblings, and extended family were never far from her mind, and this volume of reminiscences charts not just the stories of her youth, but also the ways those things have shaped and weighed on her throughout her adulthood. The author’s prose is lyrical and highly observant, offering surprising, incidental details, as in this passage about sitting in church: “Through those narrow openings, scents of grass and wild clover filtered in, along with a few flies and box elder bugs. Those bugs gathered in great clusters on the sides of buildings every August. When viewed up close, they displayed an art deco design of slate gray and orange.” Featuring family photographs, the memoir is infused with a subtle melancholy, which is perhaps to be expected in a book about a place and people now gone. But in the folds of the digressions and anecdotes readers will find an unmistakable joy on the part of Scoblic: the joy of returning to a place, having left it. The joy of carrying it within her wherever she goes.

A shaggy but powerful work about a South Dakota family.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-531-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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