An engaging personal look at the 20th century and one man’s place in it.

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THE POWER OF A MOTHER'S PRAYER

THE LIFE STORY OF D. RALPH YOUNG

Young recounts the events of his life, from his tough early years during the Great Depression to his profession, travels, children and marriages.

Young, the youngest of 11 children, grew up on a farm in Kentucky. His family and most of his community was so poor that a teacher taught students to clean their teeth with tree branches and baking soda. With that humble beginning, Young tells his life story, which includes a stint in the Navy during World War II, a career in engineering, travels all over the world and raising a family. The book splits fairly evenly between family and work stories, both of which depict Young’s personality—hardworking, serious and devoted to his family but also wryly funny. Young includes family photos, letters and other documents to illustrate his story, giving it the feel of a family album. While the book would be a treasure for anyone related to Young, it also serves as a crash course in 20th-century history and culture. Young provides context for his life activities, such as describing what he was doing when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred and how he entered the Navy. The title refers to the prayers Young’s mother made when he joined the Navy, and he repeatedly thanks her throughout the text for praying and keeping him safe. The narrative breaks into many chapters, some so short they include paragraphs of only a few sentences. The result is a quick read and a style that often feels like simple sketches of life events, like a list of everything Young did without much consideration for how it affects the larger story. The numerous personal and family details might not appeal to readers beyond friends and family; in fact, readers might wish someone in their family had written a book like this to keep family history alive.

An engaging personal look at the 20th century and one man’s place in it.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466944572

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2012

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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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One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

THE BEST OF ME

A welcome greatest-hits package from Sedaris.

It’s not easy to pick out fact from fiction in the author’s sidelong takes on family, travel, relationships, and other topics. He tends toward the archly droll in either genre, both well represented in this gathering, always with a perfectly formed crystallization of our various embarrassments and discomforts. An example is a set piece that comes fairly early in the anthology: the achingly funny “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” with its spot-on reminiscence of taking a French class with a disdainful instructor, a roomful of clueless but cheerful students, and Sedaris himself, who mangles the language gloriously, finally coming to understand his teacher’s baleful utterances (“Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section”) without being able to reply in any way that does not destroy the language of Voltaire and Proust. Sedaris’ register ranges from doggerel to deeply soulful, as when he reflects on the death of a beloved sibling and its effects on a family that has been too often portrayed as dysfunctional when it’s really just odd: “The word,” he writes, “is overused….My father hoarding food inside my sister’s vagina would be dysfunctional. His hoarding it beneath the bathroom sink, as he is wont to do, is, at best, quirky and at worst unsanitary.” There’s not a dud in the mix, though Sedaris is always at his best when he’s both making fun of himself and satirizing some larger social trend (of dog-crazy people, for instance: “They’re the ones who, when asked if they have children, are likely to answer, ‘A black Lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe’ ”). It’s a lovely mélange by a modern Mark Twain who is always willing to set himself up as a shlemiel in the interest of a good yarn.

One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-62824-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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