Shockingly graphic, disturbingly powerful.

THE LITTLE PRISONER

A MEMOIR

Harrowing portrait of a young girl’s brutal abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

After an evaluation by social services determining neglect, Elliott (a pseudonym) and her brother were taken away from their heavy-drinking father and unfaithful mother to be placed in foster care. Limited to seeing her children on supervised visits, their mother continued an affair with Richard, a moody, shifty teenager who swiftly assumed the role of stepfather; he was 18 when the author was returned to her parent’s custody. Elliott’s beloved brother lucked out and was left to be adopted by a respectable family; her mother bragged about manipulating authorities with a bribe stipulating that the couple “only wanted the girl” back. Stepfather Richard, prone to angry rages, hated Elliott on sight and insisted she and the rest of the family (he and her mother eventually had four sons) keep the house spotless, or corporal punishment would follow. The abuse quickly ballooned to catastrophic proportions. Richard spat in her food, viciously beat her, tried to drown her, suffocated her and threatened her with kitchen knives. The author’s mother, clearly aware of the situation, never objected, fearing for her own personal safety. Attempts to run away at age six were met with increased tyranny, psychological torture and humiliation that continued well into Elliott’s adolescence, a physical state that only seemed to amplify her stepfather’s relentless sexual exploitation. Readers will breathlessly whip through Elliott’s explicit, page-turning chronicle, rooting for her to reach some sort of asylum. But even as a young adult with a boyfriend and children of her own, she would see many more years of maltreatment, including the violent backlash from other members of the family after she leaked her story to police. Though Elliott’s stepfather was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison, questions remain as to how someone carries on with life after such an atrocity has left the scars of abuse deeply embedded in both mind and body.

Shockingly graphic, disturbingly powerful.

Pub Date: July 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-156131-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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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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