An elegant sense of place, an emotive story of great vulnerability, and a wonderful gift from mother to daughter.

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WUHU DIARY

ON TAKING MY ADOPTED DAUGHTER BACK TO HER HOMETOWN IN CHINA

An intimate, everyday portrait of a river city in China, where Prager (Eve’s Tattoo, 1991, etc.) adopted her daughter and later returned with her to gather impressions and information before the place underwent the tides of change.

Prager, a novelist and humor writer, adopted Lulu from the city of Wuhu in southern China in late 1994. Lulu had been abandoned by her parents for reasons unknown, and Prager wanted to see the orphanage where Lulu spent her first seven months and learn whether there were any documents that might shed some light on her daughter’s early life. “I’m a modest person,” declares the author, “a humorist who’s scared of feeling,” and that is part of what gives her account such charm: She was forced to address profound feelings, and while she never shied away, she was also never glib, searching for words in a way that is sometimes rough but always sincere. While Prager describes the city as she and Lulu go about getting to know the place—they stayed for about six weeks, and the book is structured like an extended diary—she must also explain to five-year-old Lulu what exactly they are doing there—indeed, what it means to be adopted. This aspect of the story weaves itself around other experiences, visiting old tea houses and rock gardens and parks, struggling with bureaucrats and party members, coming across an outdoor park “where about twenty middle-aged couples are ballroom dancing to Chinese pop music emanating from the old Maoist PA speakers,” and even more PAs spout Paul Robeson’s “Old Man River” during a trip to the zoo. NATO bombed the Chinese embassy in Kosovo while they were in town, so their journey was truncated, although not before their snapshot of Wuhu, stolen out of time, was secure.

An elegant sense of place, an emotive story of great vulnerability, and a wonderful gift from mother to daughter.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-50349-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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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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