A pleasant journey hardly rendered urgent by measured, unemphatic and unspectacular prose.

NORTH OF ITHAKA

A JOURNEY HOME THROUGH A FAMILY’S EXTRAORDINARY PAST

Shy, stilted debut by Eleni author Nicolas Gage’s daughter, who recounts her efforts in her mid-20s to rebuild the haunted family homestead in Greece.

People magazine beauty editor Gage was living the Greek-American dream in Manhattan when she decided to take up the gauntlet flung by her four thitsas (aunts) and return to the village of Lia, located on a mountain in the remote, impoverished province of Epiros. “There is hate in that village,” declared Thitsa Kanta, a long-time exile in Massachusetts who had nothing but bitter memories of the Greek/Albanian border town racked by a brutal succession of invaders during and after WWII. During the civil war of the late 1940s, Grandmother Eleni helped her entire family escape the Greek communist guerrillas who occupied the village; they joined her husband in America, but she herself was held back, arrested, tortured and executed. After 50 years of disuse, her house was decrepit and filled with evil memories. Nonetheless, young Eleni returned to supervise its reconstruction based on her father’s redesign. She was fluent enough in Greek to do business with the construction crew and make friends with neighbors, friends and sister churchgoers (she observed all the religious festivals). Most of her friends were elderly; they either burst into tears at her resemblance to her grandmother, or wondered why she wasn’t married. Her narrative is a curiously lackadaisical mixture of American earnestness and superficiality. She declares that she learned firsthand the importance of omens to Greeks, for example, from the discovery before her departure of ovarian cysts, which she monitored throughout her trip. When she finally forced herself to read her father’s unsettling account of her grandmother’s ordeal, she had to escape the scary parts by flipping through a Greek Vogue.

A pleasant journey hardly rendered urgent by measured, unemphatic and unspectacular prose.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-34028-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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