A perceptive, gritty portrayal of the frenzy of war and a father and son caught at its tumultuous center.

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THE LOYAL SON

THE WAR IN BEN FRANKLIN'S HOUSE

A gripping history of a family torn apart by political upheaval.

In this fresh contribution to the abundant biographies of Benjamin Franklin and histories of the American Revolution, poet, playwright, and biographer Epstein (The Ballad of Bob Dylan, 2011, etc.) focuses on the relationship between Franklin and his illegitimate son, William, who rose to become a political force in his own right. Epstein’s title refers both to William’s sorely tested loyalty to his father and unwavering loyalty to England as the Colonies erupted in rebellion and violence. Drawing on much unpublished correspondence as well as published works, the author constructs a fast-paced, vivid narrative with a host of characters whose appearance and personality he etches with deft concision. According to a close family friend, Franklin had been the loving, “intimate, and easy companion” of his son when William was a young man. Charming, “handsome, easy-going, more agreeable” than his father, William achieved success that eventually rankled Benjamin. Epstein notes “open, unabashed competition” by the time William was 40 and governor of New Jersey. However, it was not competition that caused their deep rift but rather their immersion in vastly different political worlds: William, in the Colonies, sought to “manage the volatile emotions” of rebellious protesters; Benjamin, in England, saw Parliament as “power-hungry, factious,” and corrupt and urged his countrymen “to stand firm, trusting in their own sense of justice,” even risking “a permanent break from the mother country.” Epstein is sympathetic to William’s desperate desire to quell dissent, actions that led to a year’s imprisonment in a squalid cell while his father basked in the warmth of celebrity in Paris, where he lived a luxurious life in a villa. What did Benjamin know, asks the author, about “that hell on earth,” the “war of desolation, the hangings and rapes and dismemberments,” the 10,000 refugees? Father and son eventually reconciled, but Franklin never really forgave William for what he considered betrayal.

A perceptive, gritty portrayal of the frenzy of war and a father and son caught at its tumultuous center.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-345-54421-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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