An author who vaunts his “likable kookiness” finds fresh invention in the sum lessons of his life.

REPORT ON MYSELF

A MEMOIR

Tender, witty memoir about the contortions of childhood and first love.

French author Bouillier (The Mystery Guest, 2006) delights in the pell-mell selection from his life story of seemingly random details that carry a mythological significance, such as names (his own surname means “small birch forest”) and dates. Born in Algeria in 1960 while his father was performing compulsory military service, he moved with his parents and older brother first to Lyons, then to Paris when he was five. Early on, he contracted staphylococcus aureus, possibly from licking the windows of a train. He lost his sense of smell and nearly died from the virulent infection, but “was more than a little proud of having caught something that turned out so difficult to spell.” Bouillier later re-created the “toxic shock” of this event when he met one of the defining loves of his life, Laurence, on a train. His childhood was marked by the accidental scalping of his best friend on the playground, the breakup then rapprochement of his volatile parents and his love for Marie-Blanche Fenwick, the daughter of a haute-bourgeois family residing near the Champs-Elysées. His glimpse of Madame Fenwick washing her bottom over a bidet suffused the nine-year-old with a sense of beauty and redemption, swiftly eclipsed when a drug scandal sent the Fenwicks fleeing from the country. Later, Bouillier recognized he had tried to recapture that glorious feeling of youth by plunging into a doomed romance with a girl in a dove-gray blouse who lured him to the Gulf of Mexico, dove-gray and golf being two emblematic words associated with Madame Fenwick. (And golfe being the French word for gulf.) Left at wit’s end after the girlfriend vanished, he returned to his parents’ home, plunged into Homer’s Odyssey and put aside painting for literature: “It was my sacrifice for continuing to live,” he says.

An author who vaunts his “likable kookiness” finds fresh invention in the sum lessons of his life.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-618-96861-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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