An upbeat survey of a decent, likable modern leader.

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THE GOOD POPE

THE MAKING OF A SAINT AND THE REMAKING OF THE CHURCH—THE STORY OF JOHN XXIII AND VATICAN II

A sincere, adoring look at the life and legacy of the humanist pope who helped modernize the Catholic Church with the convening of Vatican II.

Although he served only briefly, from 1958 to 1963, Pope John XXIII, born a Bergamo peasant farmer’s son named Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, pushed back against the ultraconservative wing dominating the papacy since Pius X’s turn-of-the-century reign. In this accessible biography, Tobin (Holy Holidays!: The Catholic Origins of Celebration, 2011, etc.) marks the 50th anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962 and John’s likely canonization in 2013. At times, the author sounds a little awestruck in describing Roncalli’s many diplomatic talents. Born in 1881 and ordained a deacon in 1903, he was formed by his early apprenticeship under Bishop Radini-Tedeschi of Bergamo, who employed a circle of liberal clergy advocating “the idea of Christ as an instrument of social change.” Under his tutelage, Roncalli became an activist and world traveler, tiptoeing around Pius X’s thundering denunciation of modernism; Roncalli was appointed by the more liberal Benedict XV for missionary work, then by Pius XI and Pius XII for diplomatic missions in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and postwar France. Revered for his work with refugees and ability to bring factions together, and well-liked by the other cardinals, Roncalli was nevertheless elected as a “transitional figure” to the papacy on October 28, 1958. Immediately, John began planning the first ecumenical council of the Church in 90 years, in the hope of embracing new currents of reform and renewal, especially as played out by the Cold War. The role of priests, evangelizing, use of the vernacular in Mass and changes in the liturgy, among others, were all reconsidered in the spirit of aggiornamento (“bringing up to date”).

An upbeat survey of a decent, likable modern leader.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-208943-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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