Poetry can’t produce a lost parent, but as this collection demonstrates, it can leave a meaningful legacy behind.

WALKING ON A MOONBEAM

AND OTHER VIEWS FROM THE CREEK BANK

After a long career in the U.S. space and national defense programs, a debut author turns to poetry.

This slim volume comes with a brief introduction from McDonald explaining the dedication to friends and family. Indeed, it makes a thoughtful chronicle of a full life and will be treasured as such. From the banks of a boyhood creek in Mississippi to the changing seasons in Colorado, the sections play out their chronologies in steadfast rhyming quatrains. Many of the subjects are familiar to poetry fans—youth, wisdom, love, farewells. Much of the imagery is recognizable too, as in the opening lines of “Springtime,” where “Green walks slowly across the land, / Stamping brown into the sand.” Though it’s famously difficult to treat seasonal subjects freshly, this springtime scene includes a vision of lightning and thunder that inspires the speaker toward a strong metaphor to close the poem. “A new genre has claimed the land,” he asserts, putting a signature stamp on the old book-of-nature idea. The handful of romantic poems, too, draw on much-deployed tropes of holding the loved one close to the heart despite distance. But the depth of true love adds gravity to simple lines like these, from “Don’t Leave Me Alone”: “Today my heart trembles with fear, / Knowing you may not always be near.” Perfect rhyme seems just right in this case, for articulating how terrible it will be to go on living after the beloved departs, toiling onward in the wake of loss. The poet’s involvement in the space mission, beginning in 1964 with the Apollo program, occasions a long piece on this “Greatest Adventure,” hailing those who depart in a “chariot of fire” toward the much imagined “lunar path.” The title of the book connects to this “greatest thrill imaginable” but originates in McDonald’s self-described wanderlust to search for his father, killed during World War II, when the author was age 5. In boyhood dreams, he searched for his father, whose body was never found.

Poetry can’t produce a lost parent, but as this collection demonstrates, it can leave a meaningful legacy behind.

Pub Date: June 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5434-3093-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2017

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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