Narrow in scope, this homeless tale still offers a testimonial with undeniable value.

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A HOMELESS PANIC

THE HOMELESS EXPERIENCE IN AMERICA

A first-person account explores homelessness in Massachusetts.

Lough opens his debut memoir in 2012 as he faced the prospect of living on the streets for the first time at age 53. The author recounts his trials while he navigated the rules and regulations of several shelters. Each one stipulated a different maximum length of residency and minimum period between stays, which added to the sense of revolving doors. Lough comments: “Compared to the six-day time period at Ally’s and two weeks at the Harvard shelter, ninety days at the Brewster seemed like real security.” When he couldn’t afford car repairs, this setback created a dependence on public transportation and severely limited the jobs he could accept. Lough’s frustration with this vicious cycle is palpable, especially when a shared ride to a job site got him into trouble (marijuana usage in the car was the issue, although the author did not partake) and affected his ability to sleep at a particular shelter. During one of the periods between shelters, an abandoned van became a godsend, his only chance to keep relatively warm and dry that night. It was unlocked and unoccupied, contained a mattress, and remained undisturbed until daybreak. Throughout the text, the author also includes bleak images of some of the locations he frequented during this time. After 18 months, Lough’s previously learned skills as a handyman offered him a way out when he found a steady job as an onsite building manager performing maintenance duties. To his credit, the author successfully conveys a precarious existence—at once monotonous and fraught with uncertainty. The only caveat about this gritty work regards the calibration of the reader’s expectations in light of a phrase from Randall Shaw’s Foreword (“an unvarnished look at the culture of homelessness”) and the broad subtitle, both of which could be a bit misleading. It may not be possible to extrapolate Lough’s experiences to other geographic locations or facets of identity such as race (he’s Caucasian), gender, or age. This memoir is a case study with significant details about everyday concerns, not a place for grand sociological theories. This is not to diminish its worth but rather to acknowledge the actual breadth of the project.

Narrow in scope, this homeless tale still offers a testimonial with undeniable value.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-8297-2

Page Count: 104

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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