A former clinical psychologist, Gildiner is also a gifted storyteller. With verve, she relates how she cleverly manipulated...

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AFTER THE FALLS

COMING OF AGE IN THE SIXTIES

This sequel to Too Close to the Falls (2001) picks up the story in 1960 with the willful, exuberant 12-year-old author entering adolescence and exiting small-town Lewiston, N.Y., for a new life in a Buffalo suburb.

A former clinical psychologist, Gildiner is also a gifted storyteller. With verve, she relates how she cleverly manipulated her way into the popular girls’ clique in high school, how she nearly burned down the doughnut shop where she worked and how her plan to paint the neighborhood lawn jockeys white went awry. She also writes about her disappointment when bad acne kept her, a talented athlete, from making the cheerleading team. In one grim episode, she and a girlfriend spied on a fraternity meeting, becoming stunned witnesses to a gang rape. In the second half of the book, the author chronicles her college years in Ohio—coping with roommates, making friends and encountering sororities, which at first she was determined to join, but which she soon characterized as bastions of a social conservatism that she abhorred. This experience and her observations of racial discrimination politicized the author. Gildiner’s summer job with a state welfare department opened her eyes to a malfunctioning system, and her romantic relationship with a somewhat elusive black poet and her work with civil rights brought her into contact with the black power movement. Disillusionment followed, and a scary brush with the FBI prompted her to accept a professor’s offer to help her get away from Ohio and into the University of Oxford. Throughout, the author examines her fraught relationship with her father, to whom she had been close as a child. It was his criticism of her flirtatious behavior with a boy that shaped her skeptical attitude toward boys throughout her high-school years and probably later still. But when her father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and began to lose his mind, Gildiner stepped in to protect him from himself. The author’s relationship with her mother, a superficially conforming prefeminist, seems sympathetic but somewhat unclear.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-02205-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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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