Struggles against racism, marital abuse and obesity yield life-lessons in this self-help manifesto.

Growing up as a mixed-race second-class citizen under South Africa’s apartheid regime gave the author plenty of obstacles to overcome, including an inferior education, job discrimination and the daily humiliation of pass laws. Equally rankling was her family’s membership in a strict Christian denomination—her father was a minister—that accepted white supremacy and sexism and imparted a dour worldview dripping with guilt and fear of hellfire. Worst of all was her 18-year marriage to a violent, sadistic man (another minister) who beat her in front of their daughters, raped her at knife-point and dunked her head in a vomit-filled toilet bowl. Mercuur’s account of violations both intimate and impersonal, and of the helplessness and depression they induced, is full of harrowing detail; readers will be moved by her perseverance—she rose to become a bank executive—and by her efforts to understand and forgive the injuries she suffered. The book falters when she tries to elaborate a philosophy from her travails. In long-winded, meandering, repetitive passages, Mercuur harps on a set of simplistic or vague principles: seek sustained improvement instead of mere change; think for yourself rather than accepting dogmas imposed by others; pitilessly search for truth, which can only be apprehended by “physical knowledge” gleaned from the five senses; take personal responsibility for everything that happens to you, racial oppression included. The practical focus of her creed is on weight loss, which she undertakes with the help of an old high-school flame who became her guru after her husband’s death; the regimen of “isolated muscle training” that he put her on constitutes the only concrete advice she has for readers. Alas, Mercuur’s obsession with fitness and appearance results in insights—“Who we are physically displays who we are spiritually”—that are dubious and uninspiring. A riveting biography weighed down by dull, superficial pensées.


Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-1439256305

Page Count: 232

Publisher: BookSurge

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2010

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Honest messages from one of America's best known women.


A compilation of advice from the Queen of All Media.

After writing a column for 14 years titled “What I Know For Sure” for O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Winfrey brings together the highlights into one gift-ready collection. Grouped into themes like Joy, Resilience, Connection, Gratitude, Possibility, Awe, Clarity and Power, each short essay is the distilled thought of a woman who has taken the time to contemplate her life’s journey thus far. Whether she is discussing traveling across the country with her good friend, Gayle, the life she shares with her dogs or building a fire in the fireplace, Winfrey takes each moment and finds the good in it, takes pride in having lived it and embraces the message she’s received from that particular time. Through her actions and her words, she shows readers how she's turned potentially negative moments into life-enhancing experiences, how she's found bliss in simple pleasures like a perfectly ripe peach, and how she's overcome social anxiety to become part of a bigger community. She discusses the yo-yo dieting, exercise and calorie counting she endured for almost two decades as she tried to modify her physical body into something it was not meant to be, and how one day she decided she needed to be grateful for each and every body part: "This is the body you've been given—love what you've got." Since all of the sections are brief and many of the essays are only a couple paragraphs long—and many members of the target audience will have already read them in the magazine—they are best digested in short segments in order to absorb Winfrey's positive and joyful but repetitive message. The book also features a new introduction by the author.

Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250054050

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron View Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A realistic, motivating conversation about weight loss for those who have tried everything else and failed.


Part memoir and part pep talk, this debut book urges dieters to stop counting fat grams and learn to enjoy food.

When her mother died, Irwin was devastated. She was also mortified that old friends would see her at the funeral because she had “gained so much weight.” Trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting that had begun when she was in junior high, Irwin was a size 22 by the time she was in her 40s. Miserable, she constantly berated herself while agonizing over calories and eating prepackaged diet industry food. Then one day Irwin decided to stop dieting and love herself at any weight, eating without guilt or shame. A big believer in the “law of attraction,” where thoughts create reality, she began thinking positively about herself. Retraining her mind to view food as pleasurable nourishment, she started eating nutrient-dense items—including leafy green vegetables and fruits. And if she wanted a piece of cake—well, she just went ahead and devoured it. The pounds began coming off naturally, and as time passed, Irwin’s once overweight body became fit. This dramatic and familiar life story quickly turns into an upbeat motivational speech for stressed-out dieters, as Irwin divulges her no-frills secret for healthy weight loss—eat good food and feel great about it. While this common-sense approach isn’t new, diet-disgusted readers who don’t mind a curse word or two may be able to relate to Irwin’s friendly, plainspoken voice, as when she describes dysfunctional labels people often place on food: “How about this classic attitude, ‘Fuck it, I’ve been so bad this week I think I’ll just eat the rest of this box of cookies’?” Some of the author’s inspirational thoughts are memorable: she compares the negative voice in her head to a bully who shouldn’t be tolerated. Light on diet jargon and health-related facts (the author mentions that 68.5 percent of U.S. adults are overweight, but she doesn't cite sources), this thin, fast-paced work can be read in a couple of hours.

A realistic, motivating conversation about weight loss for those who have tried everything else and failed.    

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-6051-7

Page Count: 124

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

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