A well-researched study of one American woman’s enterprising career.



Lape’s exploration of her great-great-grandmother’s life reveals the entrepreneurial spirit of a Midwest madam.

Lizzie’s frequent self-reinventions—and eight marriages—yielded multiple surnames throughout her life. She was born in Whitley County, Kentucky, in the mid-19th century, and was “living the low life in Chicago by the time she was 18.” Her adventures eventually brought her east to Ohio, where she became the owner of multiple establishments of ill repute, including the White Pigeon in Marion, a gathering spot with “the best girls, the best buffet, [and] the best poker games.” Her creative use of limited resources made her an undeniable force, able to navigate the law and even get in the good graces of future president Warren G. Harding. (Lape speculates that Lizzie and Harding, then a newspaper editor, plotted a fake police raid of the White Pigeon in order to catch a Harding competitor red-handed.) However, Lizzie’s motivations and convictions remain matters of conjecture, as the documents Lape has unearthed don’t indicate much about her forebear’s interior life. Lizzie’s outward traits are likewise somewhat murky; readers don’t ever really discover whether she was loud, funny, mean or charming. Yet there are some intriguing insinuations of Lizzie’s personal qualities; for instance, she opportunistically and cleverly volunteered the Pigeon to a revivalist church in 1903, in order to create a mission for unwed mothers—“a win-win opportunity to the community.” Lape also shows how Lizzie demonstrated her political leanings in unusual ways; for example, she named one of her daughters “Mary Jennings Bryan Veon,” after Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. The author’s genealogical investigations are meticulous, and her admirable process of uncovering the past becomes as much a topic of this biography as Lizzie herself. When Lape broadens the scope of her explorations to consider other subjects, such as the era’s postwar politics, her work is most informative (although she only minimally explores 19th century brothel life). The sections that more narrowly focus on Lizzie and her descendants, however, may be of more limited interest to general readers.

A well-researched study of one American woman’s enterprising career.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492733409

Page Count: 282

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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