ONLY IN AMERICA

MEMORIES OF FAITH, INSPIRATION, LOVE AND BUSINESS

Spanning nearly eight decades and three continents, Zecchino’s autobiography describes two distinct parts of a remarkable life—the first in World War II Europe where she was born and lived as a young woman; the second, her post-war life in the United States as a wife, mother and successful businesswoman.

The defining backdrop of Zecchino’s childhood was the specter of WWII; a relatively carefree life in eastern Africa, where her father served in the Italian army, turned to terror amid fears of British invasion, her father’s capture as a prisoner of war and threats of violence from marauding rebels. Quickly dispatched on a Red Cross ship as part of the daring Navi Bianche (the White Boats) rescue, she, her mother and young siblings endured violent storms, dysentery and heat stroke, along with constant threats from stalking enemy submarines and aircraft. Arriving safely in Naples in June 1942 to a poverty-stricken post-war Italy, life resumed until she fell in love with an American soldier and sailed to America in 1947 under the War Brides Act. Together they opened a market in New York City, followed by a flourishing catering business and a growing family. A string of successes and failures resulted in the birth, rapid growth and extraordinary advancement of Holiday Foods, Zecchino’s high-end frozen food manufacturing company. The author’s story, told in slightly staccato, matter-of-fact prose, is one of resilience born of need, of honing the tools required to carve out the rewards in America that made her “stronger and yet more humble.” The extraordinary success of Holiday Foods was visible proof of this, yet the focus on the business end of her story lacks the detail and organization required to portray the complex strategic perspective needed to grow and develop a company this significant. Even though her passion for her business is palpable, she seems to be treading water with equal parts personal reflection and anecdotes that don’t gel, and she misses the mark when it comes to describing exactly how she built this business from a one-women catering shop to a manufacturing facility with 150 employees. The reflections of a close-knit family life amid difficult circumstances and events ring true throughout, though the narration is more controlled than exquisitely emotional where one might expect it. What it lacks in mechanics and organization, it makes up for in intriguing detail; amazing glimpses into pre- and post-WWII life present the value and promise of America.

 

Pub Date: July 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1605946580

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Llumina

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2011

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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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