A courageous, richly textured, and unsparing memoir.

MEMORY'S LAST BREATH

FIELD NOTES ON MY DEMENTIA

A former gender studies professor’s memoir about living and remembering her life in the face of dementia.

Before 2010, when doctors told her that she had microvascular disease, one of the leading causes of dementia, Saunders had it all: a successful career and a thriving, multigenerational family. She retired from the University of Utah two years later with “no whimpering, no whining, no despair,” fully aware that hers had been a fortunate existence. Hoping to offer something that “could be actually useful in the world,” Saunders began keeping a journal about her “lurch into that ‘strange Country’ ” of memory loss. She started by recalling everything she could about an early life that had begun in the rural Transvaal region of South Africa. By “flesh[ing] out [her] shrinking self with former selves,” the author would become “Doña Quijote,” the madwoman questing for truth. Drawing on literature, scientific research, her family’s collective memory, and her own experiences, Saunders crafts an eloquent, often lyrical book that, in its fragmentation, becomes increasingly affecting over the course of the narrative. As she speaks about growing older and wearing clothes that express “the way I feel rather than look,” for example, she intersperses her reflections with “Dementia Field Notes” journal entries that bluntly address all the difficulties she must face on a daily basis due to her condition. The author’s candor is especially evident in the way she addresses the way her dementia has and will continue to dehumanize her the longer she lives with it. Not wishing to be relegated into a zombielike “neither-dead-nor-alive” status, Saunders discusses the plans she and her family have made to help her die with dignity when her quality of life has dwindled too far. The book is remarkable not only for its fiercely honest, sometimes-poetic portrayal of mental decline, but also for the way the author effectively celebrates “the magisterial of a mind, the grant of an interval to sound the ordinances of a world without being.”

A courageous, richly textured, and unsparing memoir.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-50262-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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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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