An incomparable personal story exquisitely, stunningly told.



Novelist Alison (Creative Writing/Univ. of Miami; Natives and Exotics, 2005, etc.) presents a mesmerizing memoir about her broken family.

The author was four and her sister Maggy seven in 1965, when their parents, Australian diplomat Edward and teacher Rosemary, had affairs with an American couple, Paul and Helen, who were in Canberra for Paul’s diplomatic post. The Americans had two girls almost the same ages, Patricia and Jenny. Within nine months, the families had realigned, with the fathers trading places. Jane and Maggy got a new father, new surname, new home across the Pacific and antipodal sisters who, in turn, inherited Edward as a father and the author’s beloved Australia as home. In rich, lyrical prose, steeped in classical imagery and vivid similes of the natural world, the author discusses the implications of this shock-inducing split. Along the way she covers her nomadic childhood in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and South America and her precocious adolescence and meandering adulthood. Alison refrains from hiding behind linguistic dexterity, however, laying herself bare by including verbatim passages from her diaries. Rosemary endured a tempestuous marriage with Paul; the American was cold, though pretty, smart, fierce Jane finally earned his love long after Maggy had given up. After seven years of letters and increased fascination with the other family, Jane and Maggy finally saw their birth father, newly posted to New York, and spent time with Helen and her daughters. The encounter launched a long, destructive competition between Jane and her counterpart Jenny (they shared a birthday) for grades, races, boys and, above all, their fathers’ love. The author’s narration of these years painfully explores jealousy, home, memory and “the wretched human economics of desire and desirability.” Playful syntax and meaningful fragments arranged like poles around colons—“The heart of jealousy: knowing you’re dispensable”—pull the reader along in rhythmic, sensual currents of language that sparkle with Alison’s talent for tethering the abstract to physical description.

An incomparable personal story exquisitely, stunningly told.

Pub Date: March 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-15-101280-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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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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