A moving memoir that’s particularly timely given the current health care debate in the United States.

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The Blameless Victim

OUR TEN-YEAR LEGAL BATTLE AGAINST ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE AND AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL GROUP

A heart-rending debut nonfiction account of a couple’s struggles with insurance companies as they tried to recover from a catastrophic accident.

In January 2002, a massive tanker-trailer hit Marcia Rhodes’ car from behind, and she suffered a welter of crippling injuries, including irreparable spinal cord damage that left her a paraplegic. Her husband, Harold, in this debut memoir, walks readers through their harrowing story, including the protracted aftermath of Marcia’s medical struggles and the couple’s fight with two insurance companies that were reluctant to reach financial settlements. As the book’s subtitle suggests, the author focuses on their tug of war with these companies and their indefatigable efforts to compel them to pay what they desperately needed to cover onerous medical costs. Rhodes’ depiction of insurance carriers’ cynical money-saving strategies serves as a grim reminder of how toxic the mix of commerce and health care can be. He also illustrates, with painstaking thoroughness, the judicial system’s lamentable limitations and the ballooning costs of health care. Additionally, the couple had to contend with a criminal trial against the driver of the truck, who was charged with negligence. Still, the heart of the book concerns the couple’s battle to manage the emotional fallout of a transformative disaster. For example, after the author asked his wife to politely thank him for his caregiving efforts, he realized the depths of her depression: “She felt that given the way her life was, I was not being reasonable to have these expectations. She was utterly depressed, so just getting through the day was all I could expect. She was perfectly correct. I am not supposed to nag her; I am supposed to love her as she is.” The account of the legal contests can be excruciatingly detailed, and the book’s overall chronological structure, which reads like a diary, can be exhausting. Nevertheless, readers will find this a sad but inspiring story.

A moving memoir that’s particularly timely given the current health care debate in the United States.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1499543285

Page Count: 374

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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