MY BROTHER JOSEPH

THE SPIRIT OF A CARDINAL AND THE STORY OF A FRIENDSHIP

Kennedy (Psychology/Loyola Univ.) evokes the memory of his friend Cardinal Bernardin in a literary portrait that aspires to poetry and sometimes succeeds. Kennedy, who has written 40 books, including a lengthy 1989 biography of the late cardinal, is ideally suited to reflect on the career and inner person of Joseph Bernardin. The two were friends since they first met in 1967 as coworkers on a study of the American priesthood, sponsored by the then newly founded National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). Bernardin's most intense public experiences—his central part in drafting the NCCB's pastoral letter on nuclear war, published in 1983 as The Challenge of Peace, his appointment as archbishop of Chicago, his response to the false charges against him of sexual abuse—are all remembered from the standpoint of the admiring and devoted friend. The sparer Kennedy's prose, the more Bernardin's spirit shows through it, as at the end of the book, where the simple grace of the words mirrors the cardinal's own graceful acceptance of death. But the excess metaphor in earlier sections makes a gaudy frame for the basic simplicity of goodness Kennedy wants to reveal in his friend. Goodness may, in any case, be more complex for Kennedy than he lets on. Along with Bernardin's gentleness, Kennedy insists repeatedly on the cardinal's manliness. That defensive posture puzzles until, in an offhand reference late in the book to another priest's attributes, gentleness is made out to be a feminine (motherly) quality. Kennedy expresses, but does not acknowledge, a tension that must be especially acute for priests, between sex roles defined by secular culture and codes of moral virtue preached by the Church. Bernardin's saintliness shines through in this memoir, but less brightly than it might have, had the paradoxes in priestliness only intimated here been more directly addressed. (12 illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-17118-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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