An authentic, if overpadded, document of the Vietnam era.

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Helicopter Love Mail (From Vietnam to Miami) Part 2

The menace of the Viet Cong pales beside the tantrums of a fussy newborn in these tense, ardent letters between a soldier and his put-upon wife.

This second volume of the Clarks’ letters, covering Bill’s tour as a U.S. Army Special Forces captain in Vietnam from March to September 1971, begins with the birth of their son, Billy, an event that rocks Donna like the Tet Offensive. With Donna torn between a mother’s love and the squalling, pooping, grabbing, hair-pulling reality of a difficult baby, her conflicted letters express adoration and resentment in the same breath—“Billy’s screaming up a storm, he’s so cute.” She develops a severe case of postpartum depression that leads to a near breakdown: “I feel like just getting away and never returning,” she confesses and adds, “I’m not kidding about the fact that I could almost kill myself.” Meanwhile, Bill is as supportive of Donna’s violent mood swings as he can be from almost 10,000 miles away; he even volunteers to have a vasectomy to appease her dread of further pregnancies. There’s both prickliness and ardent passion in the Clarks’ correspondence; along with Donna’s anxiety about her figure, her threats to give away Bill’s incontinent dog and their mutual suspicions of infidelity, there are countless gushing protestations of love—“Honey, I want you so bad I want to hold you, squeeze your breasts and thighs into my body, and cry”—and yearning countdowns to their reunion. In between the moments of crisis, tension and romantic effusion are long stretches of banality. Donna’s everyday routine—“Then Mom, Billy and I went to Burdine’s and I bought a mattress pad”—fills letter after letter. Bill mentions occasional decapitations and mass casualties in passing, but the sheer ennui of base life—“I wish I had something to write about, but I just don’t”—predominates in his missives. Moon shots and the counterculture—“Talk about gross….the guys’ hairdos are unreal”—go on in the background, but the Clarks stay raptly absorbed in the minutiae of personal life. The collection could have benefitted from a stern editor, but it does vividly convey the small dramas of a typical military family.

An authentic, if overpadded, document of the Vietnam era.

Pub Date: April 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468021370

Page Count: 288

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2012

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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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Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

THE DYNASTY

Action-packed tale of the building of the New England Patriots over the course of seven decades.

Prolific writer Benedict has long blended two interests—sports and business—and the Patriots are emblematic of both. Founded in 1959 as the Boston Patriots, the team built a strategic home field between that city and Providence. When original owner Billy Sullivan sold the flailing team in 1988, it was $126 million in the hole, a condition so dire that “Sullivan had to beg the NFL to release emergency funds so he could pay his players.” Victor Kiam, the razor magnate, bought the long since renamed New England Patriots, but rival Robert Kraft bought first the parking lots and then the stadium—and “it rankled Kiam that he bore all the risk as the owner of the team but virtually all of the revenue that the team generated went to Kraft.” Check and mate. Kraft finally took over the team in 1994. Kraft inherited coach Bill Parcells, who in turn brought in star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, “the Patriots’ most prized player.” However, as the book’s nimbly constructed opening recounts, in 2001, Bledsoe got smeared in a hit “so violent that players along the Patriots sideline compared the sound of the collision to a car crash.” After that, it was backup Tom Brady’s team. Gridiron nerds will debate whether Brady is the greatest QB and Bill Belichick the greatest coach the game has ever known, but certainly they’ve had their share of controversy. The infamous “Deflategate” incident of 2015 takes up plenty of space in the late pages of the narrative, and depending on how you read between the lines, Brady was either an accomplice or an unwitting beneficiary. Still, as the author writes, by that point Brady “had started in 223 straight regular-season games,” an enviable record on a team that itself has racked up impressive stats.

Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982134-10-5

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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