A witty, wise and mordantly wise-cracking memoir and examination of the American way of death.

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SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES

AND OTHER LESSONS FROM THE CREMATORY

A 20-something’s account of her life as a professional mortician.

Doughty's fascination with death began in childhood, but it wasn’t until she got to college that she dropped all pretenses of “normality and began to explore “all aspects of mortality” through her work in medieval history. Intellectual exposure to death and the human rituals associated with it eventually led to a decision to pursue a career as an undertaker. With an honesty that at times borders on unnerving, Doughty describes her experiences tending to dead people that, through her colorful characterizations, come to life on the page to become more than just anonymous stiffs. The author offers an intimate view of not just the mechanics of how corpses are treated and disposed, but also of the way Americans have come to treat both death and the dead. Throughout the last century, the rise of hospitals and displacement of homes as centers of life and death sanitized mortality while taking it out of public consciousness. “[T]he dying,” writes Doughty, “could undergo the indignities of death without offending the sensibilities of the living.” In the vein of Jessica Mitford, Doughty also casts a critical eye on the funeral industry and how it has attempted to “prettify” death for the public through cosmetic excesses like embalming. Yet unlike Mitford before her, Doughty reveals that what the public is ultimately getting cheated out of is not money, but a real and wholesome experience with death. For the author, the way forward to a healthier relationship with the end-of-life experience is to reclaim "the process of dying” by ending the ignorance and fear attached to it. Death is not the enemy of life but rather its much-maligned and misunderstood ally.

A witty, wise and mordantly wise-cracking memoir and examination of the American way of death.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-24023-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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.

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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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