Popular history in a triumphant mode, of interest largely to Reagan partisans.

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THREE DAYS IN MOSCOW

RONALD REAGAN AND THE FALL OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE

Fox News anchor Baier (Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission, 2017, etc.) makes a cheerful case for Ronald Reagan’s single-handedly talking the Soviets out of being communists.

Reagan liked to be thought of as a political outsider, but “he wasn’t really.” He had governing experience as the two-term chief executive of California and a network of supporters within the federal government, and he “had evolved as a public persona who could articulate the issues of the day.” After a difficult period of folded-arm posturing back and forth between his White House and the Kremlin, with a few results hard-won at the arms-reduction talks in Reykjavik, Reagan and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, developed something of a working relationship by which long-closed doors opened up. One of them came in the form of an invitation to Reagan to speak to an audience at Moscow State University; in the speech he delivered on May 31, 1988, he spoke hopefully, as was his wont, of new possibilities: “Americans seek always to make friends of old antagonists.” Baier’s three-days narrative trope doesn’t stand up to close examination, and his suggestion that the Iron Curtain began to rust away the minute Reagan stepped off the podium is a little too pat; he sometimes seems to forget that, after all, Gorbachev was doing his part to end the Cold War, too. To his credit, the author does note the considerable amount of shuttle diplomacy that extended from Reagan’s second term into the incoming administration of George H.W. Bush, a skilled player on the international stage. Still, a more evenhanded and altogether better account can be found in Richard Reeves’ President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination (2005) and H.W. Brands’ Reagan: The Life (2015).

Popular history in a triumphant mode, of interest largely to Reagan partisans.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-274836-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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