TRIALS OF THE EARTH

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARY HAMILTON

Life at the turn of the century in the lumber camps of the Mississippi Delta, as recalled by a woman pioneer who cooked for hundreds; raised a family; and, with humor and courage, overcame a host of daunting obstacles. Written on scraps of paper in the 1930's at the request of journalist Helen Dick Davis, who edited the manuscript, Mary Hamilton's autobiography was rejected by publishers who felt that the memoirs of a pioneering woman were of no interest. Fortunately, times have changed, and we can now appreciate this remarkable tale of a woman with little formal schooling but tremendous spirit and an intuitive wisdom. Raised in the wild country of Arkansas, Hamilton met her husband, the mysterious Englishman Frank Hamilton, at the boardinghouse she helped her widowed mother run. When her dying mother made her promise to marry Frank and to raise her younger brother and sister, Mary agreed—but ``to be honest, I admired him but I did not love him.'' Over the years, admiration turned to love, but Frank—who hinted at a distinguished background—never fully took Mary into his confidence; he also drank when under pressure, and, in the resulting binges, squandered the money Mary had saved. Her life was filled with work—she did everything from baking 115 loaves of bread a day to milking cows; with hardships—floods that destroyed her home in the camps, as well as a series of financial set-backs that ended her dream of having her own house; and with death—four of her nine children died in early childhood. Courageous, never self-pitying, Mary was quick to note the help of loyal friends; the loving support of her children; and the natural beauty of the Delta in which she lived. A salutary reminder of just what those too-often unremembered women did in opening up this country. A splendid and long overdue addition to the pioneering canon.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1992

ISBN: 0-87805-579-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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