A loving remembrance told with humor and cheer.

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BLESS YOUR LITTLE COTTON SOCKS

One woman’s sentimental memoir about her colorful mother.

Debut author Radford writes that she found herself often quoting her voluble mom, Margery, so she began to catalog all the “Margeryisms” she could recall as a kind of linguistic homage. Those scattershot remembrances form the basis of this memoir—a portrait in short essays. Radford’s parents moved to Troon, a small town on the western coast of Scotland, sometime in the mid-1950s; the family moved often within that town—eight times—and many of the author’s recollections take place there. Her mother was truly eccentric; she would cook beef heart for the dog, for example, or free a pet hamster so that he could be properly “fulfilled.” She was also a natural raconteur with a gift for turning beautifully polished, if peculiar, phrases. Once, when asked if she had enough to eat, she replied, “I have had an elegant sufficiency. Any more would be sheer gluttony on my part.” Some of her coinages were more obscure: when she expressed exuberant joy, for instance, she might exclaim, “bonnets over the windmill,” although it was never precisely clear why. And once, when asked why a previous engagement didn’t work out, she cryptically replied, “All cats are grey in the dark.” Of course, there’s much more to the author’s mother than her amusing theatricality, and what emerges here is a full picture of a playful, loving woman with a gimlet eye. The book has an impressionistic structure; some essays are very brief, like a snapshot, but collectively, they treat readers to the full arc of the author’s life with her parents, from her early years to her adulthood in the United States, where she pursued her medical studies. Like her mother, Radford herself has a flair for memorable description, and her prose is clear, quick-witted, and often tenderly nostalgic—no surprise from an author who still keeps a locket of hair from her childhood dog. Overall, this is a beautiful chronicle, touching, amusing, and unabashedly grateful.

A loving remembrance told with humor and cheer. 

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5246-5258-6

Page Count: 184

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 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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