A vividly raw portrayal of a brutal upbringing, sprinkled with historical tidbits about Greek immigrant culture.




In this debut memoir, a woman recounts the turbulence of a childhood that left an emptiness she has spent most of a lifetime trying to fill.

The youngest of four children, Sardanis was born in the Bronx in 1933 to poorly matched Greek immigrant parents. Her mother, Maria, was a plain, illiterate peasant girl from a small village on the island of Lesbos. An arranged marriage to her brother’s friend Costa sent a terrified Maria off to New York, where she met her husband for the first time: “My mother valued family, religion, and her home. My father liked to drink, talk politics, and party with others.” He also spent most of what he earned on himself—fine clothes, “alcohol, and women.” They fought constantly. There was never enough money for rent, and food was sometimes scarce. When Sardanis was 5 years old, Costa left Maria and their four children, refusing to let them know where he lived: “Rejected by my father, my mother sought a channel for her misery. She found it in me.” Verbal assaults were accompanied by violent physical beatings. The author took to hiding out in libraries, which became her secret passion. Salvation came in her teenage years from a compassionate social worker who provided the emotional support she needed. Eventually, Sardanis married her first husband, Sotiris, and they moved to Los Angeles. This emotional memoir is constructed as a series of essays, each chapter centered on an event or time period. Conversationally articulate prose is filled with unresolved anger and pain but also expresses the author’s strong attachment to her Greek heritage, especially when it comes to food (with a few recipes capriciously dropped in) and the warmth of the community. According to the author, the trauma of her early years—including sexual molestation by the father she had once adored—left scars that would impact her life for many years. Of Sotiris, she writes: “I’d married someone cruel like my mother and irresponsible like my father.” Not until her third marriage, in her late 40s, would she learn how to trust and love.

A vividly raw portrayal of a brutal upbringing, sprinkled with historical tidbits about Greek immigrant culture.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-539-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2019

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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 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 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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