A moving testament to the power of unconditional love and its ability to get us through our darkest hours.


The Blessing of Movement

In her debut memoir, Konrad eloquently captures the complexities of her relationship with a larger-than-life sister whose towering presence—both literally and figuratively—molded the family in ways big and small.

Konrad, the baby of the family, was Willie and Rosie Smith’s third daughter, nine years younger than her mercurial sister, middle child Sandra. Her earliest memories are of Sandra’s doing things like throwing a fit after every shampoo. In hindsight, Sandra’s seesawing mood swings and “talent for manipulation” should have served as warning flags of trouble ahead. But the Smith girls, despite being African-Americans in the Jim Crow South of the 1940s, were brought up in Houston, Texas, by doting parents whose unconditional love glazed over glaring faults. As Sandra came of age, her bold and domineering personality smothered everyone around her, including the Smiths’ oldest daughter, Jackie. “I really didn’t have much of a social life and much of my time was dominated by concern for my sister,” Konrad remembers. “The agony that comes when a sibling acts out impacts everyone. In my case, I was particularly vulnerable as Mama always managed to draw me into it—up close and personal.” Overweight as a child, with problems of her own, Konrad was regularly roped in to mediate issues she did not yet fully grasp, the pawn between Sandra and her mother, Rosie. The memoir brilliantly captures the complexities of growing up in the shadow of a domineering figure whose grip on attention meant less room for everyone else to blossom. Konrad movingly chronicles Sandra’s steady downhill descent from star high school student to member of Houston’s underworld. Only when a devastating tragedy grounded Sandra did she remarkably turn her life around, with help from her long-suffering family and devoted husband, Charles. Eventually, Konrad served as caregiver to both her aging parents and to Sandra, whose life, with its highs and lows, Konrad believes, was filled with blessings of motivation and grace.

A moving testament to the power of unconditional love and its ability to get us through our darkest hours.

Pub Date: June 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5049-1565-6

Page Count: 216

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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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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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...


Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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