While Dickerson’s alternately amusing and painful anecdotes speak clearly to all, a lack of perspective on his time at...

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HOUSE OF CARDS

LOVE, FAITH, AND OTHER SOCIAL EXPRESSIONS: A MEMOIR

This American Life contributor Dickerson recounts his time working for Hallmark in an amusing but disjointed debut memoir.

In his late 20s, the author, a crossword-puzzle writer and recovering evangelical Christian, landed what he hoped would be his dream job with the famous proprietor of sentiment. During his tenure with the company, Dickerson interacted with a surprisingly wide range of personalities and was passed back and forth between several different departments. Amid the amusing anecdotes of jokes fallen flat, petty passive-aggressive encounters and his bizarre methods of dealing with writer’s block, the author interlaces tales of other experiences, both life-altering and pedestrian (hiring a prostitute to touch her breasts, a shopping spree at The Gap). The stories are often provocative, fun to read and horribly familiar to those who have worked for large corporations, but Dickerson’s intent—both for the reader and himself—is unclear. In addition, he often piques the reader’s interest with leading phrases and language, and then fails to deliver the expected punch or glosses over profound revelations before moving on to a different topic. For example, after announcing that a potentially cancerous lump turned out to be merely an ingrown hair, Dickerson promptly segues into a prolonged story of further attempts to regain the approval of his boss through jokes that ultimately misfire horribly. His tendency to abruptly switch gears among topics like work, sex and religion with no framework to pull them together results in a haphazard stumble through a period in the author’s life.

While Dickerson’s alternately amusing and painful anecdotes speak clearly to all, a lack of perspective on his time at Hallmark may leave readers wandering as aimlessly as the author so often did at the greeting-card giant.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59448-881-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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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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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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