Although drawing on only limited Pakistani sources, Allen nevertheless creates a compelling look at Bhutto’s tumultuous life...




A concise biography of the divisive Pakistani leader.

In this sharp, perceptive contribution to the Icons series, Allen (Chair, English/Bennington Coll.; The Other Side of the Mirror: an American Travels through Syria, 2011, etc.) examines the controversial Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007), who served two nonconsecutive terms as prime minister in the 1980s and 1990s. Although young Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai called Bhutto an inspiration, the woman who emerges here was arrogant, self-serving, and narcissistic (“addicted to adulation”). As she gained power, the author writes, her pretensions became “elevated from the monarchical…to the positively imperial.” By the time she was installed as prime minister for the second time, in 1993, she “simply caved in to the culture of corruption—indeed excelled in it.” She gave her greedy husband multiple government positions, allowing the couple to enrich themselves on an unprecedented scale—the author estimates they gleaned $2 billion to $3 billion in graft. Bhutto’s outsized sense of self-importance had been nurtured by her powerful father, Pakistan’s president and, later, prime minister. He sent his glamorous, indulged, “pampered favorite daughter” to Radcliffe, then Oxford, where he pressed her to hone her talents as a public speaker by standing for election as president of the Oxford Union, a prestigious debating society. Observers of her career remarked that “style tended to trump substance.” She defined leadership as “being charismatic, as pulling together alliances in a personal way,” rather than making and carrying out policy. Allen’s interviews with a few of Bhutto’s American contemporaries give this biography immediacy and candor, and she distills information from published material, such as Bhutto’s own whitewashed autobiography and scholar Stanley Wolpert’s biography of her father. These sources provide ample evidence of American support and manipulation of Pakistan’s “military, authoritarian regime” and “facade of democracy.”

Although drawing on only limited Pakistani sources, Allen nevertheless creates a compelling look at Bhutto’s tumultuous life and Pakistan’s roiling history.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-64893-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Amazon/New Harvest

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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