A highly polished memoir of enormous heart.

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AMONG THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

A TALE OF EXILE AND HOMECOMING ON THE WAR ROADS OF EUROPE

The Latvian world of her grandmother draws the writer, an American, back to the old country to re-create a vanished life between farm and war.

In her striking debut memoir, Verzemnieks (Creative Nonfiction/Univ. of Iowa), winner of a Pushcart Prize and a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, refashions the early life of her deceased grandmother Livija, who was born and raised on a farm in Gulbene, in eastern Latvia. She left her hometown to work in Riga as a bookkeeper and was subsequently caught up in the Soviet invasion and takeover of her country in World War II. Livija then left her homeland and came to the United States, where she was reunited with her soldier husband, who had been demobilized from the Latvian Legion, which was actually fighting for Nazi Germany against Russia. Livija and her family settled into the Latvian community of the former mill town of Tacoma, Washington. There, they raised their granddaughter, the author, after her parents got divorced and underwent mysterious crises, leaving the child in their care. The author became keenly aware of all aspects of the life Livija left behind, so much so that years later, when she actually visited her grandmother’s homestead and grew friendly with her great-aunt, she was able to re-create in great detail this vanished life. Verzemnieks beautifully evokes the sympathy between Livija and her young granddaughter and the subsequent acquaintance between the author, now grown and married herself, and her great-aunt, who reluctantly revealed painful episodes of her past, such as the day the Russians arrived at the end of the war, ransacked the farmhouse, and deported her sister to a labor camp in Siberia. With fluidity and nuance, the author smoothly incorporates Latvian history into her narrative as well as the quietly buried sins of the past, such as the Latvian men’s forced conscription to fight on the German side.

A highly polished memoir of enormous heart.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-24511-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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