An intriguing but unevenly executed memoir.

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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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 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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