Not sufficiently expansive or introspective to engage a wide audience.

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MY JOURNEY FROM ANXIETY TO JOY

A detailed memoir that addresses diet, therapy, and spirituality.

Carter (Secrets of My Sex, 2008) begins her account in 2003 in a gastroenterologist’s office. At the time, she was 43 and had endured chronic stomach pain for years. She worried she might have cancer but refused invasive procedures and instead embarked on a raw food diet. The first third of her book, “Body,” details the challenges of this transition—including finding social acceptance for a diet that seemed extreme to many people, including her parents. Raw food helped Carter in some ways, but she remained unsatisfied; she yearned to be a writer and bemoaned her failure to be financially independent. Carter returned to dance, which she’d once studied at Juilliard, and explored Bikram yoga and energy-healing concepts. But she realized that her mind—particularly her anxieties—needed attention. In the second section, “Mind,” Carter tells of entering a spiritual psychology program at the University of Santa Monica, devising a course in transformational creative practices for alma mater Scripps College, and becoming a life and writing coach. She also published a poetry book in 2007. Still, her fears and self-doubt remained. The final third, “Spirit,” focuses on spiritual healing. After her mother’s death, Carter’s anxiety became “disabling,” she says, but after exploring reiki, craniosacral therapy, breath work, shamanic training, meditation, holistic psychiatry, and conventional medicine, she learned self-acceptance. Carter’s decade-spanning quest covers countless forms of therapy and self-help. Her relentless unease is palpable throughout, deftly portrayed through effective dialogue and memorable recollections. But it’s never quite clear what was specifically wrong with her—and therefore, what her book is truly about. She admits at one point that the book started as a memoir about raw food but gravitated far beyond that topic. The title would suggest a focus on her anxiety, but she never delves fully into that subject, either. She returns to the theme of her writing practice often, but her book isn’t about becoming a writer. As a result, readers may find themselves roaming through the book in search of its purpose.

Not sufficiently expansive or introspective to engage a wide audience.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-345-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2018

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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