A welcome addition to the literature of space exploration.

SHOOT FOR THE MOON

THE SPACE RACE AND THE EXTRAORDINARY VOYAGE OF APOLLO 11

A vigorous exploration of the Space Age, a frontier oddly befitting Wild West historian Donovan (The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo—and the Sacrifice that Forged a Nation, 2012, etc.).

The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Apollo 11 on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step” pronouncement. That history and the long chain of efforts leading up to the landing have been well-documented, not least by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff. Even so, Dallas-based historian Donovan finds fresh things to say about the events—as when, for instance, he recounts Buzz Aldrin’s constant lobbying to be the first to set foot on the moon, a campaign that his peers found tedious but not entirely unseemly. That Armstrong was chosen to lead and then kept in that role, Donovan writes, strongly reflects a priority: “NASA wanted to make a clear statement about the non-military nature of the landing and of the American space program as a whole,” and Armstrong was both a civilian and senior in the hierarchy, making him a natural choice. Aldrin was privately devastated but put up a brave front. In Donovan’s hands, pioneering space scientist Wernher von Braun gets some deliverance from the Tom Lehrer school of lampoonery: True, he’d worked for the Nazis, but he also made remarks about the Hitler regime critical enough to be charged with treason, interrupting his perhaps unlikely playboy lifestyle. Just so, Donovan turns to small but meaningful episodes that speak volumes: NASA’s grudging addition of various lunar experiments “for the science guys”; Aldrin’s ministering of Communion by means of a tiny vial of sacramental wine that he smuggled aboard for the purpose; the fact that only by landing there could we be sure that “the moon’s color…was various shades of gray.” The author closes with the hopeful thought that after a long hiatus, we may soon be heading back into space.

A welcome addition to the literature of space exploration.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-34178-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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