A moving, enlightening study of loss and its surprising consequences.

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BEYOND WORDS

A MEMOIR STORY

A bereft daughter’s journey through grief and healing.

In her debut memoir, Huntress tells the story of her parents’ untimely deaths from cancer and the profound effects of those tragedies on her and her brothers. The author leads readers through her own personal history, beginning with her picturesque 1980s New England childhood and later focusing on her constant search for home and belonging that began with her father’s death. She presents her memoir as a series of detailed, chronological vignettes, and despite its wrenching subject matter, Huntress skillfully avoids self-pity; instead, she evokes the clear voices of her younger selves, immersing readers in the past as she experienced it. As a child, for example, she noted that grieving “is the name for what happens on the insides of everyone left behind after someone dies.” Her careful exploration of her evolving perspectives on mourning and growth is one of her book’s greatest strengths. The narrative does lack momentum at times, particularly in later chapters, which focus on the minutiae of the author’s therapy sessions, but even these sections retain a meditative sense of personal reflection. Readers coping with their own losses may find Huntress’ story particularly affecting, but many of her sharp insights are universal. One particularly vivid passage asks: “I wonder if they named it the rib cage because it is designed to hold in our hearts, to cage up the wild and terrible residue of living.” The author uses the loss of her parents as a starting point for broader philosophical journeys, as she strives to understand how the past connects to the present and future: “Maybe this is how the true past really is,” she writes. “You can try to bury it away in a safe place so you can revisit it just as it was whenever you want, but years later when you go to retrieve it, no matter how long you dig, it still eludes you.” Her reconstruction of her own past, elusive as it may be, results in a rich, ultimately hopeful read that thoughtfully contributes to age-old discussions of life and love.

A moving, enlightening study of loss and its surprising consequences.

Pub Date: March 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492956341

Page Count: 332

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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

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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