For a cradle-to-grave biography free of piety and pathography, start here. For fresh disclosures on this most intensely...



An intriguing take on JFK? Yes. “A Life Like No Other”? Hype.

No unknown scandals or significant surprises spring from these pages. The major qualities that made Jack Kennedy so compelling a figure are here: intelligence, good looks, and charm. New documents—mostly diaries, letters, and oral histories from the JFK Library—allow, however, for the mapping of what the author calls “a hinterland . . . deep, strange and surprising”: John F. Kennedy as a romantic who lived life full-tilt because he correctly feared an early death. Biographer-historian Perret (Eisenhower, 1999, etc.) underscores the similarities between his subject and Lord Byron: Both lacked maternal love and suffered through ill-health in childhood, then as adults lived recklessly, bedded countless women, and inspired a whole generation through idealism and their own untimely deaths. In some ways, Perret depicts a more paradoxical, and sometimes vulnerable, man than the one we thought we knew: The self-mocking wit who reduced a roomful of listeners at a Thanksgiving celebration by mournfully singing “September Song”; a nominal Catholic who sought consolation in faith as his infant son Patrick lay dying; an avatar of youth and vigor who fretted over the jowly chin created by his medication. Kennedy’s charisma is shrewdly assessed (it combined “the two essential traits of the movie star—emotional power and psychological authority”), as is the impact of Addison’s disease and chronic back problems on his outlook and career. Unfortunately, though, Perret’s summaries of his subject’s character are filled with platitudes (“At eighteen, youth takes as its right a sense of being eternal, even when surrounded by the solicitous in white coats”), or by redundancies (notably, the stress on JFK’s penchant for speeding). Worse, Perret does not adequately explain why he dismisses some claims about the Kennedys (such as Joe Sr.’s illegal business practices) while accepting others (abortions procured by JFK for three different lovers).

For a cradle-to-grave biography free of piety and pathography, start here. For fresh disclosures on this most intensely examined president, turn elsewhere.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-50363-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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