Prose that vividly and courageously articulates a cautionary tale of abuse, with more than a nod to pathological...




In this memoir, a battered wife endures years of beatings in silence.

There were signs from the very beginning that Hafner’s (Where Do I Go from Here, 2001, etc.) husband had anger issues. Jack Brennan was quick to blame others for tiny irritations, ranting compulsively about perceived injustices at work, and the first time he punched her in the arm was two days before their wedding. But he was exciting and attentive, a bit of a rebel with his longish hair, and a delightfully energetic lover. The year was 1969; Hafner was turning 25 and looking for love. She was in her fourth year as a French teacher at a Long Island high school; he was the new young science teacher. The chemistry between them was intoxicating. One year later, they were married. In her harrowing tale, Hafner recounts years of shame, fear, and beatings that followed the hopeful nuptials. Violent episodes are interspersed with glorious days at the beach and the joy of refurbishing a small house the couple bought on a South Shore canal. Then there was the tenderness with which Brennan treated the two cats he adopted from a shelter. This was just enough for Hafner to deny to herself what was happening, to continue making excuses for him: “I decided that his anger was just an expression of passion for life, and I had to accept him as he was…I wasn’t even beginning to guess where it might go.” In this brutally honest account, played out against the music of the ’70s, Hafner graphically depicts Brennan’s eyes turning cold and his rants gaining manic momentum, finally resulting in a punch to her face or a chair thrown at her head—all of it happening rapidly, unpredictably, without more than a minute or two of warning. The author found herself living two lives—one at work where she was happy and successful, and one at home where she disappeared into a shell, frozen in terror. After one violent episode, Hafner recounts: “I unwound myself, stood up on shaky legs, and opened the freezer and smoothed an ice cube along my face. I didn’t cry though. Tears were nowhere near. I felt no sadness, no anger. Fear trumped them both.”

Prose that vividly and courageously articulates a cautionary tale of abuse, with more than a nod to pathological codependence.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63152-149-2

Page Count: 206

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2017

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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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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.


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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