Digressive, impenetrable writing leads disappointingly to bewilderment.

DON'T PANIC

This confusing debut collection of homilies, personal reminiscences, and treatises by Mody raises the possibility of a blissful existence but struggles to convey how.

“Just step out of the lingering painful memories and get rid of stress, tension and anxiety from life as we all are BORN TO LIVE A BLISSFUL LIFE,” proclaims the frontispiece of this self-help guide. The 532 pages that follow are a mishmash of fictional stories intended to bring enlightenment, anecdotal life lessons learned by Mody, and essays on life’s evils and how to avoid them. The book opens with a story about a “saint” who meets a robber. The saint asks the robber to ask his family members if they approve of his villainous activities. The outcome of the story is that the saint pricks the robber’s conscience, resulting in him changing his ways. This is followed by an essay on how mothers are pivotal in deterring their children from becoming terrorists, rapists, and mass murderers. There is also a peculiar tale about a priest who is reserving tickets to see a Shakespeare play and, in a conversation with the theater manager, learns that “one cannot escape from one’s own conscience.” The collection includes details of the author’s medical history and dogs. This highly digressive book would benefit from being thoroughly edited for clarity: “The overall surroundings are such that it becomes difficult to restrict youngsters trapped in to certain pockets where they lured to become offenders, criminals or terrorists. We all know that the modern technological gadgets make the process much easier for those who want to misuse.” This writing style makes an already amorphous subject all the more difficult to grasp. Mody’s opinion on children with disabilities, whom he refers to as “special children,” may prove uncomfortable for some readers: “A special child is born so as ultimately to qualify parents and all concerned for elevation during this life or afterlife.” This book is difficult to read and rarely clearly conveys, explains, or supports any of its complex ideas. Despite its sometimes contentious viewpoint, there is a sense that it was written with the benevolent hope of improving society, even if it falls significantly short of the mark in its execution.

Digressive, impenetrable writing leads disappointingly to bewilderment.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4917-6360-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2018

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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