A new light on the Roosevelt clan that serves as illumination of the short life of an unhappy man.

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SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME

A PORTRAIT OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT AND THE TORTURED FATHER WHO SHAPED HER LIFE

An exploration of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) and her idealization of the father she hardly knew.

In her autobiography, Eleanor wrote that her father “dominated my life as long as he lived” and “was the love of my life for many years after he died.” TV journalist and social historian Burns (The Golden Lad: The Haunting Story of Quentin and Theodore Roosevelt, 2016, etc.) makes much of that statement, claiming that Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt (1860-1894), Theodore’s younger brother, “influenced her character more than anyone else ever did” and therefore deserves “the most prominent role he has yet known in a book.” Unfortunately, the author is mostly unpersuasive about Elliott’s influence and in his depiction of the “bond” between father and daughter. Burns draws his information largely from Roosevelt biographies by Joseph Lash, Blanche Wiesen Cook, David McCullough, and others and by a cache of letters between Eleanor and Elliott, written over two years, ending with his death when Eleanor was 10. Elliott was a tormented man, moody, depressed, and beset by demons. By the time he married, he was a “full-fledged alcoholic,” and as the years passed, he became addicted, as well, to laudanum and morphine. During Eleanor’s childhood, he was institutionalized several times—dramatic events kept from his daughter—but never cured. He had at least three affairs, one resulting in the birth of a son, and was estranged from his wife and family. Biographers acknowledge that when he was sober, he was a loving parent, far more so than Eleanor’s cold, dismissive mother, but he was hardly involved in her upbringing. From Burns’ evidence, the man she loved was largely imaginary. The author makes the odd decision to organize the dual biography in nonchronological leaps of time to prove that “theirs was a relationship for the ages.” But the alternating chapters offer a familiar portrait of Eleanor, underscoring how vastly different she was from her father.

A new light on the Roosevelt clan that serves as illumination of the short life of an unhappy man.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-328-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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