Deliberative reflections, both more academic and more provocative than the usual self-help guidebook.




French neuropsychiatrist Cyrulnik (Arts and Social Sciences/Univ. of Toulon; Talking of Love on the Edge of a Precipice, 2005, etc.) presents narratives of childhood trauma, seeking to tap into the human ability to cope with incredible adversity.

How do young children who have endured horrendous hardship—e.g., abuse by caretakers, internment in concentration camps, witnessing their parents’ murders—rebound to become healthy, even optimistic adults? The author, whose own parents were deported to Nazi concentration camps, looks at numerous examples of trauma in this loosely organized narrative of human possibility. “A child who has survived an extreme situation,” writes Cyrulnik, “is shaped like an oxymoron: his guilt is innocent, his pride is shameful, and his heroism is cowardly.” The environment around such a resilient child is to his development—he is loved out of disgust or admiration. “We love victims so long as they remain wretched because it makes us feel good when we help them,” writes the author with typical bluntness. Cyrulnik provides numerous examples of trauma and abuse: youths interned at Drancy, Vietnamese boat people dispersed to France, Ethiopian refugees in Winnipeg, orphans isolated and deprived in institutions in Romania, Russia and China. The author also looks at the trauma of exiles, giving rise to isolation and assimilation; survivors wracked by guilt; orphans “set free” in their creativity by the death of their parents; and children numbed by the tragedies of war. Some of the typical responses of traumatized children are sublimation, emotional self-control, altruism, use of humor as a defense, aggression, precocious maturity and recurrent depression. Cyrulnik writes that we can learn from these children, who experience spectacular recovery when put in a healthy, stimulating, supportive environment, and even make strong emotional bonds. Rendering their memories into stories is a crucial way to cope, while secrets and collective amnesia are insidious and hurtful.

Deliberative reflections, both more academic and more provocative than the usual self-help guidebook.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58542-850-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?