Hard evidence that “no matter how long it’s gone on, no matter how bad it is,” an addict’s life can move to higher ground.

MOMENTS OF CLARITY

INTIMATE PORTRAITS OF SUDDEN SOBRIETY

Transformative experiences that led to sobriety, chronicled by 44 people in the public eye and compiled by one of their own.

Lawford knows a thing or two about alcoholism, heavy drug use and denial, which he disarmingly chronicled in Symptoms of Withdrawal (2005). His “moment of clarity” is not an unfamiliar one: He tanked and was a step from pulling the trigger when he surrendered to honesty and got help. Such revelatory epiphanies are as mysterious as they are sublime, and here they make for good storytelling. (They also serve as good examples, readers will hope; Lawford points out that more than 22 million people in the United States have problems with alcohol or drugs, and fewer than ten percent seek treatment.) Personal testimonies by celebrities ranging from Alec Baldwin to Buzz Aldrin bespeak the many faces that substance abuse can take and the equal variety of the illuminations that point people toward change. Some have a religious tone, some are dramatic, others subdued but deeply felt. A few will leave you wondering, such as Richard Dreyfuss’s recurring vision of a little girl dressed in pink, an image he couldn’t shake even while he was busy with drugs, booze and orgies. More than a few will leave you cringing, like Martin Sheen’s ugly encounter with his son Charlie and his painful realization that Charlie’s subsequent drug problems were partly his responsibility. “I taught him everything he knew,” the recovering alcoholic admits. An angel in the form of a no-bullshit therapist came to folksinger Judy Collins’s rescue; a mirror in his solitary-confinement cell did the same for musician/federal prisoner Dejuan Verrett. Each story holds the individual fascination of its particular circumstances; all of them get their oomph from punchy compression and plainspoken honesty.

Hard evidence that “no matter how long it’s gone on, no matter how bad it is,” an addict’s life can move to higher ground.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-145621-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2008

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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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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