FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE

An evocative, superbly written tale of a woman's journey to self-understanding. To young Aussie Brooks, the name of the street on which she lives, Bland Street, says it all. Bright and restless, she yearns for far more exciting, cosmopolitan venues than what she considers the backwater city of Sydney. And so Brooks tries to alleviate her intense wanderlust by gathering pen pals from around the world. Through them she figures she can live vicariously until she's old enough to leave this pit-stop of a country. In due course, she writes to Joannie, an American who summers in Switzerland and Martha's Vineyard; to Janine, a French girl whose provincial life surprises Brooks the adolescent but becomes an object of envy for Brooks the adult; Cohen, an Israeli teen who satisfies Brooks's fascination with the Jewish faith; and motley others. At length, Brooks (Nine Parts of Desire, 1995) does indeed find a way to live out her dream. An award-winning Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent, she becomes the paper's ``fireman,'' a moniker given to reporters who are able to cover particularly difficult situations and topics. Five wars and thousands of frequent-flier miles later, Brooks finds herself back in Sydney, in midlife going through family artifacts as she awaits her father's death. She comes across a bundle of old letters from her pen pals and decides to track them down. Foreign Correspondence is the story of Brooks's quest and her coming of age in the '60s and '70s. Alternately stirring and humorous, it offers an incisive emotional and spiritual travelogue, as well as the chronicle of an era. Particularly poignant are the sections devoted to Joannie, Brooks's alter ego, who dies an early death from anorexia. Brooks discovers what many of us learn only as we age—that there's no place like home. (8 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48269-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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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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