A captivating recollection that’s filled with novelistic drama.

READ REVIEW

SELFIE SIDEWAYS

In this memoir, the last in a trilogy, a woman escapes war-torn Europe and begins a new life, filled with books and romance, in the United States.

Zebroski (Mephisto Waltz, 2014, etc.) was born in 1934 in Latvia. Her family had already known great adversity: Her maternal grandparents, Baltic Germans, had fled Russia when the revolution broke out there in 1917. When World War II erupted, her family was yet again threatened by Soviet invasion, so they fled to Germany and then to Austria, narrowly missing the infamous bombing of Dresden. The author’s father eventually had no choice but to enlist—deserters would be executed—and as a result, he was later fatally wounded in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. Until she was able to make her way to the United States in 1954, the author often contended with straitened circumstances: hiding out in bomb shelters, deprived of proper nourishment and medical attention, and separated from her mother for stretches of time. Much of this memoir is devoted to her eventful romantic pursuits later on, especially after she came to America: Her first husband, Kurt, was obsessed with sex, she writes; her second husband, Alain Genko, who took her to live in France, suffocated her with his jealousy, she says. Finally, while working for General Electric, she met Edwin Zebroski, a talented research scientist, to whom she would be married for more than 40 years. She enjoyed a surfeit of romances along the way, the most memorable being Oscar, a man she met in Los Angeles, with whom she fell rapturously in love and would remain so. The author also doggedly pursued her education, eventually studying English and child psychology at San José State University and later successfully realizing her dream of becoming a published author. Zebroski’s story is deeply inspirational—once a starving refugee, she finally got a university degree and later became a successful real estate investor and writer, ending her family’s tortured legacy of imperilment. She writes with startling, confessional candor throughout, and she’s unafraid to forthrightly discuss her missteps as well as her accomplishments. The prose is unfailingly clear, and it affectingly depicts her desire to make a permanent home in the United States instead of succumbing to a fugitive mentality. “The journey of sorting out my memories gave me purpose,” she writes. “Yes, I can do it. Find my place in the world I had chosen to live in and was fortunate to get to.” At the heart of this gripping remembrance is the author’s sense of romanticism, which is expressed in her pursuit of both men and education, and it’s indicative of a remarkable will to avoid becoming cynical, which any reader might reasonably expect. She also furnishes a perspicacious commentary on the tumultuous cultural upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s, discussing such topics as the Vietnam War, the rise of the counterculture, the promiscuous use of drugs among her youthful contemporaries, and the sexual revolution.

A captivating recollection that’s filled with novelistic drama.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-978241-48-0

Page Count: 470

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more