Piecing together fragments of the past in this often moving memoir helps the author understand how she “found relief from...

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A TRAIN THROUGH TIME

A LIFE, REAL AND IMAGINED

Filmmaker and former PBS foreign correspondent Farnsworth makes her literary debut in an impressionistic memoir that moves back and forth through time from her childhood in Topeka, Kansas, to her work in “conflicted places” such as Cambodia, Chile, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam.

The narrative also moves in and out of reality and imagination: as the author reveals in the last pages of the book, one of the surreal childhood events she narrates never happened. Her mother’s death, though, did occur, when she was 9, and the loss was shattering. Although Farnsworth knew her mother was suffering, her father told her that her mother was “gone,” leading her to hope that she would return. Shortly after her death, Farnsworth and her father traveled by train to California to visit relatives, and the child searched for her mother every time the train stopped. In her dramatic rendering of the trip, their train becomes stranded in an avalanche in the Sierra Mountains, and she finds a white stallion, cared for by a cowboy, being transported to Los Angeles to perform in a TV series. These invented scenes—the author riding the powerful horse through the train’s cars and the train’s peril, which had occurred the year before—emphasize her emotional vulnerability at the time. Although the episode felt to her “as if it actually happened,” it confuses the narrative. Real peril occurred repeatedly in her work: she reports interviewing mothers of “disappeared” children in Chile; discovering that Nixon and Kissinger acted to undermine Allende and bolster Pinochet; interviewing leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood after 9/11; fearing for the safety of her crew while reporting from Israel and the West Bank; and reflecting on the morality of news reporting. “I don’t believe I have the right to decide what story is worth another person’s life,” she concludes.

Piecing together fragments of the past in this often moving memoir helps the author understand how she “found relief from self and sorrow by concentrating on the lives of others.”

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61902-843-2

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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