Riveting, authentic scenes from war-torn countries stand out in this addiction account.

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APPALACHIAN FREE SPIRIT

A RECOVERY JOURNEY

A debut memoir traces a veteran’s many years of addiction, detailing extraordinary and disturbing events in Africa and Vietnam and his long recovery in West Virginia.   

Calling himself “a true son of Appalachia,” Talbott grew up in a small West Virginia town and was continuously perplexed by Christianity and his innate desire to live “outside the box.” As the country plunged into major social change at the end of the 1950s, the author discovered the buzz of whiskey and beer in high school. He then joined the newly founded Peace Corps and moved to Berbera, Somalia, to work with local schoolchildren. Along with plenty of humorous adventures involving cultural misunderstandings, camels, and small monkeys, it was there that he had his first encounter with true violence: bandit raids on trains and the outbreak of war in nearby Yemen against British colonists. He continued to be thrown into horrors after enlisting in the Army and finding himself in Vietnam, where he drank warm beer while rockets and mortars exploded around him (“Only a true addict could do that”). After his tour, Talbott started a family and threw himself into a career in academia in West Virginia. But he also spent 16 years drinking until he passed out every night to escape the PTSD he didn’t even realize he was experiencing. The final third of the memoir delves into his eventual recovery, recounting each of the difficult 12 steps. The book offers a familiar narrative reminiscent of Pete Hamill’s A Drinking Life, but Talbott brings a measured, multifaceted analysis to his recovery, examining the importance of a God not necessarily defined by religion. It’s with this same exacting eye that the author revisits the unfamiliar, intriguing, and harrowing moments of his life. He draws parallels between the superstitious rumors running amok in Somalian villages and the fake news of today’s social media, describes seeing people in Vietnam trapped naked in tiny bamboo cages, and carefully considers the guilt he has carried with him since returning home from war and its impact on his worldview.

Riveting, authentic scenes from war-torn countries stand out in this addiction account.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982232-92-4

Page Count: 266

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2020

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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