A reformative, assenting spin on Salem’s hellfire and brimstone history.

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SALEM WITCH JUDGE

THE LIFE AND REPENTANCE OF SAMUEL SEWALL

LaPlante (American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans, 2004, etc.) again plumbs her family lineage to reanimate the life of the only contrite Salem Witch Trial judge to make amends.

As the author’s sixth great-grandfather, Samuel Sewall was one of a number of merciless judges responsible for the executions of Salem women accused of witchcraft in the late 1600s. After emigrating to New England from his Hampshire, England, birthplace, the God-fearing family man and patient, loving father—sadly, a great majority of his children were stillborn—enjoyed societal prominence in his mid-30s as a powerful elected deputy magistrate on the Great and General Court of Massachusetts. Previously abandoning a ministry career, he pursued work in the printing business and then became fascinated with Colony politics. Well versed on Puritan religious protocol, Sewall concurred that “public punishment of a sinner was a public service,” and this belief and many others like it followed suit as he and his fellow magistrates judged the fates of colony members accused of witchcraft in Salem, the largest town on the Colony’s North Shore. LaPlante explains that as the French and Indian War began to erupt in the late 1690s and Sewall’s newborns continued to perish inexplicably, blame for this succession of personal and political unrests fell to an omnipresent “evil” that was believed to have pervaded their township. Hundreds accused of devil worship perished at the hands of the Court, but it was Sewall who, at age 40, looked back with repentance since he’d personally had the blood of more than 20 people on his hands—all condemned with little or no proof of their witchery. Sewall, aging and increasingly liberal-minded, would marry twice more and go on to denounce slavery and advocate equality for women. LaPlante’s insightful account is fortified with descriptions of conservative, puritanical New England and its history (including psalms recited by Sewall), creating a vivid sense of place and context.

A reformative, assenting spin on Salem’s hellfire and brimstone history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-078661-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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