A concise memoir that relies more on main points than engaging memories.

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DIBS AND DABS OF MY LIFE

A debut author recounts her life in Tennessee, from a Depression-era childhood to her 70th high school reunion.

Coulter can remember growing up in Memphis at a time when “anyone could walk around the block after dark without feeling afraid; most children lived in two-parent homes; children walked to neighborhood schools.” Throughout her childhood, just before and during the Depression, Coulter watched her grandmother wring chickens’ necks for dinner, saw the arrival of the first electric refrigerator, and disrupted school with her rambunctious twin brother, Jim. After her high school graduation in 1945, Coulter married a man named Thurman in a home wedding ceremony. Four children later, she would come to realize that Thurman was both unfaithful and abusive. By 1958, she had divorced her husband and struck out on her own with three of the children (the fourth was enrolled in college): “I listened to his excuses, alibis, and promises, all of which I had heard before.” As a 30-year-old single mother, Coulter attended Memphis State College to become a teacher and moved her family to the small town of Lepanto. “Small towns were something at that time,” she writes of starting work as a teacher without even a college degree. But it ended up being a great decision in her life—eventually she would earn a degree and go on to become a principal. The author follows her story all the way through the sad loss of one of her adult children, her adventures camping across the country, and her 70th high school reunion, offering some rich details and a scattering of photographs. But Coulter’s short, sweet book covers so much information over so many years that it starts to feel more like an overview than a true memoir: “It was a very busy year. Wayne and his girlfriend, Sandy, got married; I had two new grandbabies; I attended a three-week workshop; and my father passed away.” Though her prose is always endearing, Coulter never strays too far from the facts, sometimes leaving out the emotions of her incredible tale.

A concise memoir that relies more on main points than engaging memories.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-7029-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2017

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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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