An unsentimentally courageous memoir.

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ESTRANGED

LEAVING FAMILY AND FINDING HOME

Essayist Gross (editor: About What Was Lost: 20 Writers on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope, 2006) tells the story of growing up with and then permanently leaving behind the parents who abused her.

The author’s earliest memory was of violence: “My parents believed in corporal punishment.” Discipline from her father involved brutal tongue-lashings and beatings. Both parents told her that she deserved this treatment because she was “fresh, a back-talker…too loud, too opinionated, and too smart for my own good.” Yet on the surface, the family seemed to lead a happy middle-class life in a Long Island house that looked “like something out of a storybook.” As Gross grew into adolescence, she nursed an intense hatred for her family as well as a nascent self-hatred that manifested in thoughts of suicide. Her one release was a diary where she confided “the truth of her home life” she could not reveal to anyone. By high school, Gross was a self-proclaimed “mess” who found temporary escape in alcohol and drugs and still managed to maintain good academic standing. It was only during her college years at Vassar that she began telling close friends about her history of abuse. She confronted her father about his behavior, but even her brothers could not support her, telling her instead to “forget about it.” After moving in and out of jobs and relationships and dealing with recurring episodes of depression, Gross left for graduate school. But it would not be until a job search trip home to Long Island that she would confront her mother and father together and demand that her father admit his guilt. The emotional explosion that ensued caused Gross to end the relationship she had with her parents and begin her own difficult journey to joy. The author chronicles the dark side of family life with honesty while revealing that love can still be a possibility for those willing to break self-defeating patterns of behavior.

An unsentimentally courageous memoir.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0160-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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