An impressive religious memoir—candid and inspiring without being sensationalistic or self-pitying.

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APOCALYPSE CHILD

A LIFE IN END TIMES

A debut book focuses on a young girl growing up in the infamous Children of God cult and the bizarre locales that she was raised in.

Edwards’ memoir chronicles her upbringing in the religious movement the Children of God, also called the Family, a doomsday cult formed in the late 1960s by David Berg. Berg prophesied a looming apocalypse, claiming it would occur in 1993. Often in hiding, he sent letters to instruct his followers, with the prophet encouraging an atmosphere of wanton sexuality and constant ministry, interspersed with tales of his alleged erotic conquests to offset his own impotency. From a young age, Edwards had her doubts about the “evil” that the walls around the family’s residences supposedly protected her from as well as a great fear that her life would end in martyrdom. Much of the early years of her and her twin sister, Tamar, was spent in Thailand, staying in overcrowded conditions while their parents did “outreach” work, which often meant begging. The book delivers another account of the Children of God, whose history of incest and sexualization of minor-age children has become notorious since the 2005 murder-suicide committed by former cult member Ricky “Davidito” Rodriguez in the U.S. Rodriguez killed an associate of his mother’s and then took his own life. Edwards’ experiences portray a different yet no less oppressive Family half a world away. The author will not be a stranger to some readers, having been extensively interviewed, and she brings the same presence and charisma to her memoir. The narrative is vivid, from its depictions of the blood of her mother’s first miscarriage to the constant dust and grime of life near the Mekong River. The moving story carries a muted, often dark sense of humor, with a wry sense of timing. Edwards’ shock at forgetting to minister to a brawny Russian who hoisted her above a deep freezer in Thailand (“Wanna feel cold?”) is one particularly endearing and startling case. But the author’s years of awakening after her family’s exit from the Children of God, while not rushed, feel abbreviated. The accounts of her realization that she grew up in a cult, ranging from a story in Seventeen to her teenage rebellion and even her attempted suicide, are presented with a self-awareness and charm that will make readers want more.

An impressive religious memoir—candid and inspiring without being sensationalistic or self-pitying.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68336-769-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Turner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

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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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