CROSSING MEDEA

MY FIGHT TO REMAIN A DAD

The author’s custody battle highlights the oppression of divorced fathers in this rancorous memoir.

Wesley Weiss, hero of this slightly fictionalized account of the author’s hideous mid-1980s divorce and its aftermath, finds himself in a war for the hearts and presence of his three young daughters. His adversary is his ex, “Dea,” whose vengefulness approaches that of her mythic namesake. The main front is Dea’s efforts to curtail Wes’ access to their kids through tactics manifold and devious—sudden changes in visitation schedules, frosty hand-overs that make every outing between father and daughters feel like a prisoner exchange at the Berlin Wall, the cutting off of phone and mail contact, false charges of child abuse over a skinned knee. Every detail of Wes’ paternal doings is governed by fraught (and often eye-glazing) negotiations and judicial proceedings supervised by expensive lawyers and court-appointed therapists. Worst of all is the “parental alienation” caused by Dea’s poisoning of the kids’ feelings toward Wes; every estranged dad will feel a pang of recognition at his awkward relationship with his once-loving daughters, who grow so sullen, aloof and militantly resistant to his overtures that bystanders mistake him for a predator stalking them. The author, a psychology professor and fathers’-rights activist, hangs on this narrative a lengthy indictment of Wisconsin divorce law and society’s disparagement of the male parental role. (In a subplot, Wes launches a second custody battle when he is misled by a married woman’s promises into begetting a son.) There’s a palpable bitterness at what Wiederholt perceives as female deceit and manipulation, feminism’s double standards and bias in the legal system. Wes resents wives who expect husbands to support them financially and girlfriends who want boyfriends to pay for dates; he takes to filing spiteful nuisance motions and gloats when a judge dies of cancer. The reader senses that there may be another side to the story that isn’t coming through. Still, Wiederholt crafts a moving evocation of a divorced father’s feelings of anguish and ostracism. A vivid, if one-sided, saga of familial disaffection and twisted justice.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461198314

Page Count: 244

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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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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