A fascinating, tragic tale, hampered by lackluster prose.

TEN THOUSAND SORROWS

THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF A KOREAN WAR ORPHAN

There is a Buddhist saying that each life is filled with 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys. In Kim’s first book, a grueling memoir of her childhood, one is blinded by the sorrows and left yearning for at least a hint of joy.

During the Korean War, Kim's mother committed the ultimate sin of bearing a honhyol (a mixed-race child), who in the eyes of Korean society is worthless. To pay for her crime, Kim’s mother was killed by her own father and brother as little Elizabeth watched from a bamboo basket where she had been hidden. Kim's own life was spared, but she was abandoned at an abysmal Christian orphanage where she had to wait, alone and terrified, to be adopted. Kim was eventually taken in by a childless fundamentalist Christian couple in the US who abused her both mentally and physically. To make matters worse, Kim (with her half-Korean, half-Western features) was rejected by the midwestern community that she was forced to become a part of. Her parents eventually orchestrated her marriage to a man so abusive and controlling that it is a wonder she ever escaped—but Kim finally took control of her life and set off with her newborn daughter to make a fresh start. This did not come easy. She suffered through physical and emotional pain, poverty, depression, and failed relationships. After a while this litany of despair may begin to weigh heavily on the reader. Kim has an undeniably awe-inspiring story of survival to tell, but she tells it in such a reductionist manner that the reader is overwhelmed by events without having time to reflect on their deeper meaning. Kim liberally laces her text with her own poetry, as well as that of writers she admires, but even this does not allow her work to soar with the lyricism she is striving for.

A fascinating, tragic tale, hampered by lackluster prose.

Pub Date: May 16, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-49633-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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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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