Minus any illuminating self-exploration, Womack’s saga is a fitfully colorful but ultimately empty and depressing tale of a...

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MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

The life and extreme times of a well-traveled soul man.

It’s tough to top the sensational first chapter of soul singer and songwriter Womack’s autobiography, in which his wife—widow of the late Sam Cooke, whom he married less than four months after the singer’s shooting death—attempts to kill him after she discovers him sleeping with his stepdaughter. In fact, it’s all downhill from there in this perplexing book, first published in the U.K. in 2006. Womack’s life was certainly not without incident. Raised in Cleveland in a gospel-singing family, he rose to fame as Cooke’s protégé in the Valentinos, whose ’60s hits included “It’s All Over Now,” which became a breakthrough cover for the Rolling Stones. After playing guitar in Ray Charles’ band and crafting hits for Wilson Pickett, Womack stepped out on his own, creating the bestselling albums Communication, Understanding and The Poet. His career, which also encompassed encounters with Janis Joplin (on the last night of her life), the Stones and the Faces, takes a backseat to stories of drug abuse (in the company of such notorious figures as Ike Turner and Sly Stone), drinking and womanizing. Along the way, he recounts the breakup of two marriages, the murder of a brother, the deaths of two sons and the jailing of a third. It’s frustrating reading, for Womack and collaborator Robert Ashton present his hair-raising and outrageous stories matter-of-factly, with little analysis of the character flaws that laid him so low in life; adversity has evidently taught him nothing. His chronology is frequently garbled; facts and names are scrambled; and the narrative takes enormous leaps. Some stories appear embroidered or simply implausible: For instance, Womack devotes several pages to Cooke’s purported decision to not release “A Change is Gonna Come,” while the song actually appeared on an album six months before the singer’s death.

Minus any illuminating self-exploration, Womack’s saga is a fitfully colorful but ultimately empty and depressing tale of a misspent musical life.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-84454-148-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: John Blake/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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