Leaming doesn't present much new for Kennedy buffs, but the age of Downton Abbey offers fresh context for this story of...

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KICK KENNEDY

THE CHARMED LIFE AND TRAGIC DEATH OF THE FAVORITE KENNEDY DAUGHTER

A biography of the comparatively unheralded sister closest in age to John F. Kennedy strains to find something new to say about the Kennedy clan.

How this book was written might be more interesting than the actual contents, as Leaming apparently stumbled across her story while researching more substantial biographies (Churchill Defiant, 2010, etc.). The framing sustains some suspense, as the book begins with an unnamed source whose identity isn’t revealed until the final pages. In between, Leaming chronicles a changing Britain through World War II and its immediate aftermath, as the country’s mood changed from isolationism and appeasement—in line with the position favored by Ambassador Joseph Kennedy—to a patriotic engagement with the Nazis, which found many sons of the British aristocracy serving and dying in the war, to an aftermath that saw both Churchill and the aristocracy challenged by a populist surge. Amid all this is a love story that wouldn’t fill a book if it didn’t involve the Kennedys. Leaming mainly examines the romance between a feisty debutante and Billy Cavendish, heir to a prestigious dukedom. Marrying Billy would give Kick an identity, wealth, and power independent of her family, but it would also mean crossing her family by marrying outside the Catholic Church. True love weathered those challenges, but the war ended Billy’s life a month after they wed, with Kick in America (to the displeasure of her new British family) mourning the recent death of her brother in the war. Should Kick remarry, as Billy prophetically advised? Will she retain her British ties or return to live in the States? While the young widow tried to figure out her life without becoming a duchess (a future she seemed to miss as much or more than her late husband), she made a surprising choice that would further alienate her family and result in her early death.

Leaming doesn't present much new for Kennedy buffs, but the age of Downton Abbey offers fresh context for this story of American royalty and its more tradition-minded British counterpart.

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07131-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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