An exceptionally thorough and thoughtful account of a spectacular career that helped shape and reflect national...

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THE MOST FAMOUS MAN IN AMERICA

THE BIOGRAPHY OF HENRY WARD BEECHER

Beautifully written biography of America’s one best-known preacher, who ingeniously transformed the harsh Calvinism of his famous father into a nurturing, middlebrow faith attractive and accessible to a country prepared to abandon Puritan orthodoxy.

If Henry Ward Beecher (1813–87) is remembered at all today, it’s for a notorious adultery trial near the end of his life. American historian Applegate reminds us, however, that at the height of his career, the likes of Emerson, Whitman, Lincoln and Twain each assumed upon meeting him that Beecher was the greater man. Well-grounded in New England’s doctrinal theology by his father Lyman, “the last great Puritan minister in America,” Henry was disciplined by the competition within his large, talented family (Harriet Beecher Stowe was his sister). After acquiring seasoning from his early pastoral postings in America’s rough west, Beecher brought his dramatic, emotional religious oratory to Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, which he transformed into a tourist attraction. As a traveling lecturer, a popular contributor to newspapers and magazines and even a novelist, he reached millions worldwide. Though a thoroughgoing member of the Establishment, he was also a moderate advocate of certain progressive views (abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage); similarly, his updated version of Christianity made him seem both cutting-edge and reassuring. Beecher’s fame exceeded that of all but a few men of his time, but Applegate’s sensitive, finely calibrated debut suggests that had he not been Lyman’s son, Henry would have chosen a role other than Moral Authority of the Gilded Age. Addicted to the rush of stardom, later to mammon, and throughout his life to the charms of the many women who were entranced by him, Beecher’s eventual fall reverberated throughout the country.

An exceptionally thorough and thoughtful account of a spectacular career that helped shape and reflect national preoccupations before, during and after the Civil War.

Pub Date: June 27, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-51396-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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

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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