A well-written account that focuses on the ups and downs of family life and the rewards of religious and marital devotion.

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LOST WITHOUT HIM

A woman recounts her childhood in rural Indiana and her long, passionate marriage to her high school sweetheart in this debut memoir.

Scutt grew up in small-town Indiana with a father who veered from silly to violent. With calm and even prose, the author revisits her worst moments, including having to jump out a window to escape his drunken outbursts. Surprisingly, Scutt’s father was eventually saved by a minister and never had another drop of alcohol for the rest of his life. As a teenager, she was slowly adjusting to this new incarnation of her father when she met Paul—the real focus of her memoir. As she puts it, this book is “the story of our attraction, our falling in love, my salvation.” After a few years of casual dating, Paul and Scutt married. (She tenderly narrates their first few hours as a couple, hinting subtly at their complete naïveté: They were nervous checking into a hotel and undressing in front of each other.) Their newfound coupledom would soon be interrupted by the draft, with Paul being shipped off to Vietnam for a harrowing year in the new bride’s life. Upon his return, they moved across the country and up the economic ladder as Paul ascended in the corporate world. But with each move and bigger house, Scutt always keeps the focus on their relationship, investigating Paul’s manipulative nature and how their devotion to both each other and their faith kept them together. Some readers may balk at the author’s insistence on staying with Paul—especially after a counselor told her point-blank to leave him. But her persistence and dedication to Scripture and the institution of marriage will likely be appreciated by many Christian readers. Overall, Scutt elevates her memoir from being just another life story with carefully selected details pulled from her memory and letters exchanged between the couple, especially during Paul’s time in Vietnam. She also shows a talent for creating wrenching dramatic moments; her early encounters with her father and the scenes of Paul’s eventual, heartbreaking death are particularly well-crafted.

A well-written account that focuses on the ups and downs of family life and the rewards of religious and marital devotion.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984562-12-8

Page Count: 190

Publisher: XlibrisUS

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

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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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