A clear-eyed, sometimes-colorful account of a missionary’s life and times.



A biography of an early-20th-century American Presbyterian missionary in Pakistan.

Debut author McRight’s grandfather, Bible scholar and missionary Robert Maxwell (1871-1946), died just three days after her birth. She lays out his life story, drawing on family accounts and wider world events, and often quoting letters directly. Maxwell and his sister, Elizabeth, wrote to each other faithfully during the years that he lived in Pakistan, producing a large cache of correspondence, now held by Philadelphia’s Presbyterian Historical Society: “Reading Grandfather’s letters was a good reminder that…we cannot presume to change a culture or impose on its people our own assumptions about the way the world works,” the author writes. Maxwell, who was educated at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and Allegheny Seminary, was respectful of Pakistan’s local culture; he learned Urdu to preach in the vernacular, simultaneously “devoting himself to education and evangelism” as the manager of Boys High School in Rawalpindi. His wife, Maud, taught at the girls’ school, and they eventually had four sons; two of them, George and Pollock, followed their father into ministry (as did the author, now retired). Maxwell later served on the executive committee of the Presbyterian synod’s New World Movement ecumenical missions program and surveyed schools and hospitals in Gujranwala. Over four decades, he pondered the Anglo and Christian influence in the Pakistan area and witnessed rising unrest, including Mohandas Gandhi’s 1930 march to protest the British salt tax. Overall, this is a touching tribute to an unassuming, dedicated man with a keen sense of purpose. The author sometimes inserts generic pages of political and social history to move the biography along. However, she re-creates some scenes in Maxwell’s life with real verve, such as one in which he encountered a cobra while bathing. At other points, McRight makes readers eyewitnesses to her grandfather’s birth and infuses good sensory details into a sequence outside his college boardinghouse. A few more scenes as vivid as these would have been welcome, although the family photographs, and especially the letters, do give readers a real sense of Maxwell’s personality.

A clear-eyed, sometimes-colorful account of a missionary’s life and times.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-973632-54-2

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2018

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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 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 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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