A thorough, evocative, and deeply reverent remembrance.



Former ballerina Larsen recounts her career as a professional dancer from childhood training through retirement in her debut memoir.

The author draws on an 18-year career dancing with companies such as the Oregon Ballet Theatre and Suzanne Farrell Ballet in this book, which chronicles her journey toward becoming a principal dancer. In loosely chronological essays and recollections, she begins at the New York School of Ballet as a shy 8-year-old beginner holding her own after accidentally wandering into an advanced class: “you kept up so well, and you’ll catch up to everyone else quickly,” said the teacher. From there, the author describes her development, sometimes in first-person vignettes, other times in third-person narratives that evoke the storybook qualities of the ballets she eventually performed. Anecdotes include accounts of a debut performance in which Larsen had to learn an entirely new role five hours before curtain; a dance partner’s overconfidence resulting in a broken rib; and a performance executed amid a priceless art collection. In thoughtful and approachable prose, she shares stories of artistic growth, professional setbacks, injuries, and triumphs, always highlighting the intensity of her relationship with dance: “The word ‘dancing’ implies playfulness, a carefree spirit. The paradox of classical ballet is that in order to display that quality to her audience, the dancer has to move within a strict set of physical rules that are anything but careless.…Our only safety nets are our bodies, training, and courage.” Larsen also never shies away from the brutal physicality of her craft, describing in meticulous detail the ways that a ballerina must manipulate her body and the toll that such dedication can take. Her candor demystifies her profession, whether she’s describing pre-show breakdowns, the slog of auditioning, or how she protected her joints and feet. Still, Larsen also takes special care to celebrate the beauty and power of her art form. Overall, this is a lovely debut that’s relatable, engaging, and unafraid to show vulnerability.

A thorough, evocative, and deeply reverent remembrance.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-81-306689-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Univ. Press of Florida

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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