An alternately wistful and searing exploration of a troubled legacy.

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A MEMOIR OF AN ARCHITECT'S DAUGHTER

A daughter’s vibrant relationship with her father decays into warfare and abuse in this coming-of-age memoir.

As a young girl growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, Garber (True Affections, 2011, etc.) thought that her architect father, Woodie, was the most charismatic man in the world; she even took up his interest in modernist design. With her mother, Jo, and two younger brothers, she helped him build his dream house in the Cincinnati suburb of Glendale, Ohio—a sleek, rectilinear structure that “shimmered like a white mirage...the crushed glass wall panels sparkling, while the Great Room blazed as if on fire, red, orange, and wood reflected and glowed inside the long glass walls.” In Garber’s warm evocation, the house, complete with Eames furniture, abstract sculptures, and Dave Brubeck records playing on the hi-fi, seems the perfect backdrop for avant-garde family togetherness, circa 1966. But slowly, a gradual accretion of disquieting detail spoils the gleaming facade as she reveals the dark side of her father’s world. Woodie’s ebullience, she writes, was an aspect of his bipolar disorder, which alternated with bouts of depression that kept him in bed for weeks. His compulsion to be the architect of every element of his surroundings extended to his family, whom he tormented with strict rules, constant demands to do heavy landscaping labor, and harangues about alleged laziness and lack of integrity, which grew more caustic as a difficult project frayed his nerves. He felt threatened by Jo’s desire to return to college and her turn toward prison-reform activism, Garber says, and when the white author brought home an African-American boyfriend, her father disapproved. Garber gives a subtle, nerve-wracking account of a familiar generational conflict that tore apart countless families in the ’60s, as fathers found their paternal authority challenged by rebellious daughters, long-haired sons, and wives who wanted more fulfilling roles. In this case, the intensifying confrontation pitted Woodie’s tirades against his family’s muted but mounting defiance. But the author also tells of a far more disturbing aspect of Woodie’s domestic tyranny—his ongoing sexual abuse of the teenage Garber. As the household spirals toward dissolution, Garber paints an indelible portrait of the claustrophobic hell that a dysfunctional family can become and of her own anguish and confusion over Woodie’s abuse, to which she responded with denial. She’s cleareyed in her depiction of his monstrous behavior, but she also portrays the magnetic pull of his personality and his role in shaping her own sensibility. She also acknowledges the irony of an iconoclastic modernist's not being able to cope with modernity. In prose that’s simultaneously poetic and incisive, she even finds the frail humanity behind her father’s power plays and mood swings; “Crying out, he was small and pitiful, like a statue of a dictator pulled down by peasants,” she writes of Woodie's collapsing from a heart fibrillation. Many readers will see aspects of their own family histories in this powerful saga of trauma and healing.

An alternately wistful and searing exploration of a troubled legacy.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-351-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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