A strangely addictive autobiography but one that offers no insights into breaking the cycle of abuse.

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Crazy Love Dance

A MEMOIR OF LOVE, ABUSE & HEALING

Jamison offers a memoir of a tortuous relationship with an emotionally abusive husband.

Married as teenagers, the author and her husband divorced after having four kids, but they still maintained a friendly relationship, she says. After he had another daughter, Jenna, with his subsequent wife (who, the author says, suffered from nymphomania, abused drugs, and occasionally resorted to theft to support her habits), the author’s ex appealed to the author for help in providing a stable environment for his new child. Jamison was in between relationships and jobs, so she readily agreed (“the thought of having some financial ease was very seductive”), only belatedly realizing that she was once again ensnared in what she characterizes as her ex-husband’s cycle of anger and adoration. However, she became devoted to Jenna and eventually remarried her husband again, ostensibly to give her legal authority to raise the girl. She condemned her husband’s mercurial behavior but turned a blind eye to his frequent affairs; she writes of her own inconsistency, as well, as she ended her extramarital relationship with a compulsive gambler only to resume it later because she felt that only he understood her. Similarly, she repeatedly announced her determination to sell the business that she ran with two of her grown children before finally acting on her words. Jamison details the next decades in excruciating detail, depicting her husband’s bizarre patterns of behavior as well as the dysfunctional conduct of their first four children and Jenna’s emotional scars. The author deserves credit for her brutal honesty, as she frequently reveals herself to be a less-than-ideal parent, with bouts of anger, financial woes, and occasional drug use. She documents both the love and abuse portions of the narrative well, but the healing portion is unclear. Although some of the activities here can be attributed to the culture of the time in which they occurred (the 1980s and ’90s), the book also portrays the children as carrying on the legacy of their parents’ problems. In the end, this memoir unfortunately brings to mind the cliché: “heal thyself.”

A strangely addictive autobiography but one that offers no insights into breaking the cycle of abuse.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4525-9925-0

Page Count: 252

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: July 13, 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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