A textured remembrance of a traumatic childhood that also offers affecting moments of beauty.



Ouellette entwines moments of personal pain with a lifelong awe of nature in this memoir.

The book opens with a fragment about the author’s mother, now in her late 60s, moving back home to Duluth, Minnesota, in search of “peace and quiet.” However, Ouellette’s formative years were anything but peaceful. In 1970, two years after she was born, her parents divorced, marking the beginning of an itinerant childhood. The family regularly moved, at one point relocating from Minnesota to Wyoming because of her mother’s new husband’s job. He had violent tendencies and played a “tickling game” with 4-year-old Ouellette, she says, which ended with his rubbing his hands between her legs. The author also describes childhood moments when she was “kicked out” of the family and made to live in the basement, with her mother pretending she was invisible. Other nonlinear fragments describe the author's forging a life for herself—navigating marriage, becoming a mother, and attending a sexual abuse support group. A key characteristic of Ouellette’s writing is her preoccupation with nature, as she calmly skips between accounts of her past and factual information about the natural world: “A tumbleweed is a plant known as a diaspore.” On occasion, these observations serve as distractions from personal pain; in other instances, they mirror the author’s emotional state: “you might also want to be a tumbleweed. Just look at them, lacy and weightless, rising and falling on rivers of air.” She juxtaposes these poetic moments with vivid, distressing passages, such as an account of Ouellette’s mother's hurling a frying pan at the author and yelling, “I should have aborted you when I had the chance.” The memoir also eloquently describes how the effects of abuse resonate into adulthood: “Scars don’t lose their feeling. They become more tender to the touch.” The presentation of the author’s life story as a series of fragments may strike some readers as idiosyncratic; however, this structure poignantly reflects a self-described “brokenness”: “you can tear a thing apart and tape it back together, and it will still be torn and whole.”

A textured remembrance of a traumatic childhood that also offers affecting moments of beauty.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2021


Page Count: 172

Publisher: Split Lip Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.


The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.

“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4478-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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