A welcome and heartfelt effort. We eagerly await the day when Giffords herself can more fully flesh out her story.

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GABBY

A STORY OF COURAGE AND HOPE

Moving, sometimes belabored memoir, mostly by astronaut Kelly, of Giffords' miraculous recovery after narrowly surviving an assassination attempt.

That shooting, in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011, left Giffords with a massive head wound and severe trauma to the brain. Nonetheless, as most readers know, she bravely returned to the floor of Congress to cast her vote in the last budget battle. By summer she was well enough, Kelly reveals, that she was able to give map directions in her hometown. Yet the road to recovery has been grueling and sometimes dispiriting: “ ‘It’s awful,’ Gabby will say, and I have to agree with her.” Of the shooter himself, so much in the news, we learn little in these pages; understandably, it seems that Kelly and Giffords do not wish to accord him any space in their book. What they offer instead is a detailed, sometimes diary-like record of recovery that is nothing but inspirational, as well as an account of a marriage of two ambitious and extremely busy people. Kelly is evenhanded, but he clearly places some responsibility for his wife’s shooting on the overheated politics of the day. Her opponent was fond of hoisting automatic weapons as a sign of his toughness, while Sarah Palin placed rifle-scope targets on Giffords’ district. Even after the shooting, politics prevailed. Kelly notes that while former President George H.W. Bush, who was out of office long before Giffords entered politics, made efforts to visit her in the hospital, Speaker of the House John Boehner did not, even when he was in Houston for other reasons. Kelly’s prose—how much he owes to near–ghost writer Zaslow we do not know—is mostly workmanlike; the only spark we get is when we hear Giffords in her own words, as when she notes simply, “It was hard but I’m alive…I will get stronger. I will return.” And there are many moments that don’t seem to have a place except as filler, mostly having to do with Kelly’s experiences before the couple met.

A welcome and heartfelt effort. We eagerly await the day when Giffords herself can more fully flesh out her story.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6106-4

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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