An intriguing but unevenly executed memoir.

I Never Met My Mother

A TRUE STORY DEDICATED TO EACH AND EVERY CHILD WHO WAS DEPRIVED OF LOVE, WHO WAS ABUSED OR SIMPLY IGNORED BY THEIR PARENTS - AND WHAT ONE CAN DO IN LIFE IN SPITE OF IT.

Sosensky, in her debut memoir, describes her life in the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1974.

Truth, wrote Mark Twain, is stranger than fiction. It’s also often more interesting, as this memoir of Soviet life shows. Its author was born in Moscow in July 1941, just nine days after the Soviet Union entered World War II on the Allied side; she lost her mother to illness just three months later. With her father in combat, she was at first cared for by a woman in a village some 800 miles away. By age 5, however, she was living in an orphanage near her hometown; oddly enough, the orphanage became the source of her happiest memories. Eventually, her abusive father returned to claim her and his strictness made her life torture. At 14, she ran away from home to work at—and live in—a meatpacking plant, and that’s just the beginning of this woman’s extraordinary story. Her memoir is filled with details that will be familiar to readers with firsthand knowledge of Communist countries: her school days as a “pioneer”; the drab concrete apartment blocks; the rigid bureaucracy and endless shopping lines; and the lack of staples, such as toilet paper, that made contacts in the black market a necessity. Her request to emigrate to Vienna entailed enormous risk. The author also includes personal experiences, from her first kiss to a freak accident that put her in the hospital for months. Quite a lot happens here to engage readers, who will likely admire the author’s courage and determination. The prose style, however, doesn’t quite do it justice. The book doesn’t have a clear narrative arc; the chapters merely record event after chronological event, giving each roughly equal space and weight. Overall, the story has some forward momentum but little real sense of drama.

An intriguing but unevenly executed memoir.

Pub Date: May 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482516838

Page Count: 320

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2013

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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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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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