An affecting account remarkable both in its content and execution.

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STILL LIFE

A PERSONAL STORY OF LOSS AND RECOVERY

A debut memoir recounts the difficulties of paralysis and grief.

Written using software that tracks the movement of Sutherland’s eyes—essentially the only part of his body he can still control—this book tells the story of the massive, unanticipated, and seemingly intolerable changes that the author’s life underwent beginning in the fall of 2007. It was then that Sutherland, a 41-year-old obstetrician with a wife and three sons, decided to see a specialist about his left arm. The loss of strength and muscle twitching had led him to suspect it was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but hearing it confirmed by a neurologist made it terrifyingly real. He suddenly had an 80% probability of dying within the next five years, and even if he lived, he would lose the ability to move and speak. With time to prepare for the inevitable, he spent the next two years taking trips with his family and retiring from his medical practice, making beautiful memories that were nevertheless dampened by the looming disease. Then came the loss of more and more abilities until Sutherland could no longer walk, eat, or even breathe on his own. Even so, he elected to continue living: to learn to accommodate the effects of the disease and not let them rob him of a fruitful existence on Earth. “This book deals with all kinds of change but it focuses on that which we would prefer” to avoid: “change that occurs against our will,” writes Sutherland in his preface. “No one wants these changes and still they come. When a negative change occurs, we have to choose how we will face it.” Then, in the spring of 2016, a second unimaginable tragedy struck the author’s family: His oldest son and his girlfriend drowned while kayaking in the river behind the Sutherland home. The loss took the author—who had already given up so much—to the very edge of his endurance. Sutherland’s prose is measured and thoughtful, and his accounts of fleeting moments are made all the more heartbreaking by his understated appreciation of them: “I remember the last time I cradled a newborn baby, and my last week in the hospital, strolling through the medical unit with a walker to keep my balance—recognizing the irony that my life expectancy was now shorter than that of most of the patients in my charge.” The author is such a sympathetic narrator, and his story is so mortifyingly tragic that readers will undoubtedly be persuaded by the wisdom he draws from his experiences. The work is by no means a fun read, but there is a serenity to his grief—a literal one—that is unexpectedly reassuring. He comes off not as a prisoner of his own body but rather as a monk in a cell who has been granted a rare opportunity to observe a world that few readers have the patience to see. With immense humility, he questions many of the things that people assume are necessary aspects of the human experience, digging toward a deeper, kinder understanding of life.

An affecting account remarkable both in its content and execution.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-9994395-6-9

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Sutherland House

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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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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