A funny, infuriating, and engrossing tale of family betrayal and accord, though not quite reconciliation.

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RISING ABOVE

A MEMOIR ABOUT FAMILY BETRAYAL, AND GROWING INTO FORGIVENESS

An idealistic, hardworking Italian-Canadian finally decides to defy his domineering father in this debut memoir.

DeLuca’s story actually starts with the immigration of his father, Giovanni, from Italy to the United States at age 16. Giovanni then slipped over the border to Canada after beating up a menacing, racist police officer. The fact that DeLuca even now doesn’t know the whole story sets the pattern for a nearly constant lack of communication between father and son. DeLuca and his brother toiled in Giovanni’s bakery, which became popular and successful, and yet it seemed that the two young men never had any money. DeLuca was sought after as a pastry chef, but he could never satisfy the arrogant Giovanni or win his affection. In his work, the author recalls his struggles to please this womanizing braggart while supporting his humiliated mother, until the day DeLuca walked away from the family business and his duties as a pastry chef for the rest of his life. Mocked by Giovanni, DeLuca worked in management at a “big box” bakery and married a divorcée, which scandalized his traditional relatives. Pulled in one direction by his obsessive desire to get even with Giovanni, in another by a wife who, having left her own difficult marriage, counseled her husband to quit trying to change his father, and haunted by guilt, DeLuca drew on his faith in God to strive for some sort of peace in the family. But not before his rage threatened to estrange him from the clan entirely. Action-oriented and heartfelt, this book offers an intriguing look at the difficult life of a self-employed baker. The 18 emotional chapters, each headed by a Bible verse (heavy on Psalms and Ecclesiastes, with one from Job), recount office politics, sexual temptations, unreasonable customers, and neighborhood loyalty. Giovanni is still alive, and in an Afterword, DeLuca decides to finally forgive his father. Toward the end of the memoir, the author’s list of grievances becomes rather histrionic and interrupts the story. While the squabbling remains episodic, DeLuca eventually shows maturity and delivers a sardonic self-assessment.

A funny, infuriating, and engrossing tale of family betrayal and accord, though not quite reconciliation.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5246-5963-9

Page Count: 108

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2017

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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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