Despite an abundance of eye-glazing minutiae, a revealing epistolary portrait emerges of life on the battlefield and at home.

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HELICOPTER LOVE MAIL (FROM VIETNAM TO MIAMI)

PART 1

A couple separated by war vents fears, frustrations and intense longing in this sometimes banal, sometimes passionate correspondence.

Bill Clark, then a captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces, went off to Vietnam in 1970, leaving his four months-pregnant wife, Donna, behind in Florida. His letters home from his posting as an adviser to a South Vietnamese battalion are full of homesickness, sweltering discomfort and endless boredom punctuated by moments of trauma. (“Oh, well, at least it killed some time,” he remarks after American planes mistakenly bomb his unit.) Donna usually replies with meandering details of her daily life—“I stayed home and washed and set my hair, then went to Burdine’s with Mom to buy Debbie and Steve their birthday gifts and got them another bath towel set apiece!” —but reveals her own keen anxieties over Bill’s safety and her worsening finances as her allotment checks from his Army pay go undelivered. (Their frantic, confused messages about money—necessarily conveyed via erratic, weeks-delayed postal deliveries—make for an inarguable case for the benefits of instant email and satellite communication.) The tension that separation imposes on the newlyweds runs through their exchanges: Bill chides Donna for staying out until four in the morning and mentions a comrade who is divorcing an untrustworthy wife; Donna pointedly passes along warnings about venereal disease among Vietnamese prostitutes. Although the letters focus on personal life, Vietnam-era social turmoil—drug use in the military, race riots, reports of hippies stoning President Nixon—seeps in around the edges. The selection could have profited from editing and, for this chapter that covers the first five months of Bill’s tour, the excision of less urgent missives (“Well, Honey, another dull day”). Still the Clarks’ personalities, typical of the continuing concerns faced by military families, come through vividly. The couple’s strong love and commitment are expressed in lavish pet names (“Dear Dunky Doo-Doo”), in Donna’s frank declarations of desire and in Bill’s constant romantic protestations: “This letter is to inform you that your husband is very much in love with you.”

Despite an abundance of eye-glazing minutiae, a revealing epistolary portrait emerges of life on the battlefield and at home.

Pub Date: April 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468020885

Page Count: 314

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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