A pointed, intelligently told story of a family accepting loss gracefully.

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HEAVEN'S CHILD

A TRUE STORY OF FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND STRANGERS

When a child dies, her immediate family members face grief, longing and rebuilding in this true story.

Flohr’s daughter Sarah was 16 when she died due to a freak car accident. The moment was devastating to her family, particularly her identical twin, Caiti. Yet every member of Sarah’s extended clan—including her divorced parents, her stepfather, her elementary school–aged brother and her grandparents—was left wondering how to restart his or her life after the trauma. The author felt this pain more acutely than most; her so-called “failures” as a parent and Sarah’s tempestuous nature clashed often, and she found peace elusive. She tries to piece together Sarah’s thoughts in the days and weeks before her death in this book and struggles to understand her grief process by taking a bird’s eye view of it. “ ‘There’s been an accident, and Sarah has been killed.’ The tears begin at that moment,” she writes. “I couldn’t know then that they would flow for the next five years, every day, and every night.” Although her loss was profound, the author managed to put herself outside her own sadness to take care of the tasks at hand: burying her child, repairing the damage to her second marriage, and raising two baby daughters and a son. On the edge of the story is the dazed Caiti, who wanders like a ghost throughout the narrative. The book is most compelling when we see Sarah’s side of the story, whether through her own writings or the author’s imagined play-by-play of her decision to get into that car on that summer night. The story honestly depicts a real family; the author doesn’t sugarcoat the ugliness of divorce or the anger of miscommunication. The book also provides no grand “life lesson,” which works in its favor. It shows that Sarah’s decision to get into that car that night wasn’t an act of rebellion; she was just a teen in search of food and adventure. Such a book on one’s nightstand, particularly if one is in the midst of the grieving process, could offer solace in a way that fiction never could.

A pointed, intelligently told story of a family accepting loss gracefully.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-940598-15-4

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Book Publishers Network

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 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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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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