One woman’s impressionistic, inviting account of being guided in her faith by Thomas Merton’s spirit.

MY MYSTICAL RETREAT WITH TOM MERTON

A work combines spirit-world communications and a personal faith journey.

MacKenzie notes at the outset of her slim book that it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the death of the Trappist monk and bestselling author Thomas Merton, whose The Seven Storey Mountain has reached millions of readers all over the world. MacKenzie’s own concentration here is on another Merton book, Life and Holiness, but she makes it clear that her inspiration is more immediate than literary. She claims to be in communication with the spirit of Merton, who died in Bangkok in 1968. She wants her readers to know that his spirit is alive and speaks to her. She is grateful to Merton, she writes, “for being my guide, teacher, and new spiritual friend especially for the insights I received into the spiritual realities of God.” Taking Merton as her example, the author felt inspired to embark on a monastic retreat herself, and her narrative also brings in St. Teresa of Avila quite frequently. MacKenzie’s prose is lively and personable, with the chief interest of her work deriving from the ways she weaves the lives of the Trappists she meets with the constant spiritual interventions of Merton himself. The author relates many supernatural events, both her own and those experienced in conjunction with others. In all cases, her narrative abilities are up to the task: The book always delivers vivid reading. MacKenzie concludes her account with a brief overview of her faith journey as a Roman Catholic. Although some of her target audience of fellow Christians will naturally be skeptical of her claims about communicating with Merton’s spirit, her larger message—“We are blessed to have others to help us with our spiritual development and growth and remembering who we are, spiritually speaking”—will resonate with even the most doubting among her readers.

One woman’s impressionistic, inviting account of being guided in her faith by Thomas Merton’s spirit.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-7377-4

Page Count: 84

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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