An edgy, unflinchingly honest remembrance, and a touching, useful guide to navigating a loved one’s dementia.

BEAGLE ON BOARD

ONE FAMILY'S JOURNEY TO FIND LOVE DURING THEIR FATHER'S BATTLE WITH ALZHEIMER'S

Bawmann’s debut memoir traces the course of his late father’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease, and the effects on the rest of family.

It’s an increasingly familiar problem—more people are living longer in the modern era, and many of those who make it to what’s called “old-old age” (85 years or older) will display symptoms of cognitive dysfunction. However, Bawmann’s father, Ronnie, was only 60 when his aberrant behavior became impossible to ignore. He had a history of depression, and was a difficult husband and father, the author says, even before dementia damaged his inner censor. Because of the resulting personality changes, his wife of more than 40 years left him. In early 2005, Bawmann received a call from his father, railing about his wife’s absence: “If she doesn’t come home, I’m going to kill her. I’m going to shoot her, then me.” It was a situation that the author had to manage from 1,000 miles away; he lived in Denver with his wife, son, and daughter, while his dad lived in rural Illinois. For the next few years, Bawmann and his younger brother, who lived in Boston, made frequent trips to deal with increasing crises. For example, in 2011, their father’s fixation on and harassment of an ex-girlfriend repeatedly landed him in court. As a result, he faced jail or commitment to a facility that could handle his illness. Bawmann has culled this memoir from journal entries that he kept during his decade-long ordeal, and it’s as much about the relationships between the various members of his family as it is about keeping his father safe. There’s more humor than one might expect in such a terribly painful and personal story, and the moments of sarcasm in Bawmann’s articulate, jaunty prose keep the pages turning. However, he doesn’t ignore his anguish: “The pain of his reprised toddlerhood is too deep. It can’t be excised from our souls. It haunts us like a nightmare with no end in sight.” Numerous family photos add context, such as the fact that Ronnie owned two different beagles, inspiring the title.

An edgy, unflinchingly honest remembrance, and a touching, useful guide to navigating a loved one’s dementia.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-8741-8

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2019

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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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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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