A well-written, honest memoir that takes a multilayered view of revival.

ONCE YOU GO IN

A MEMOIR OF RADICAL FAITH

Gelsinger recounts joining a Pentecostal church as a teenager, marked by both ardor and doubt. 

By the time she was 23, debut author Gelsinger kept a lid on her “fiery Jesus days,” when she “lived for mission trips and miracles, fasting and prophecy.” But it would be years more before she could overcome her fear and guilt over backsliding. Born in tiny Pine Canyon, California, in the 1980s, Gelsinger didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist family. Home-schooled, the author and her brother spent a lot of time exploring outdoors and seldom went to church. Nevertheless, she felt “an inexplicable draw to be near God from a young age” and joined the Pine Canyon Assemblies of God when she was 13. Although Gelsinger enjoyed new friendships, she at first felt anxious and suspicious about the holy frenzy of evening services. Eventually, Gelsinger made her own altar call, speaking in tongues and “soaring with Jesus,” and was asked to join the church’s worship team. Disaster struck when her family’s home burned down. Grieving and angry, Gelsinger got a church intervention for backsliding: “You have a toxic spirit, and everyone can tell.” Her mother told her she was brainwashed, but Gelsinger’s journey away from Pine Canyon and Pentecostalism would take years longer: “I wish I had a dramatic religious escape story, but the truth is my escape involved little choices each day.” Marriage, a master’s degree in journalism, children, and talking about her past all helped; eventually, Gelsinger found a welcoming home in the Episcopal Church. Today, she runs a consultancy for writers. Vivid and engaging, this memoir shows, with honesty and intelligence, the appeal of Pentecostal religiosity to a sensitive and searching teenager—a circle of friends, a sense of purpose, and answers for every question. Gelsinger’s excellent storytelling provides illuminating vignettes on her experience and how it was so often laced with doubt even as she sought certainty. Readers who see fundamentalist religion as a monolith will come away with a much more nuanced view.

A well-written, honest memoir that takes a multilayered view of revival.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-429-5

Page Count: 245

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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