Touching and funny, this paranormal Mary Poppins story requires a big leap of faith.

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HADDIE’S IN OUR CLOSET!

Life takes a supernatural twist when the 150-year-old ghost of an African-American slave follows a family home to Los Angeles.

When Soeder and his family attend his brother-in-law’s wedding at a former plantation home near New Orleans, he encounters more than the usual festivities. Staying in a cottage that was once slave quarters, Soeder comes in contact with the irrepressible Haddie—the 150-year-old ghost of an African-American slave who has haunted the cottage since her death. Haddie can speak to Soeder and read his thoughts, and she promptly makes her opinions felt. Her ability to ice a room, literally, with her disapproval leads to many amusing moments, as do her nonstop questions about a world that she cannot physically touch. Although it may read like fiction, this is, according to the author, a true account. No one else can see or hear Haddie, including Soeder’s wife, Nadine, who accepts this supernatural visitor and seems remarkably unalarmed when Haddie follows the couple and their two young children home to Los Angeles. There, Haddie takes up residence with the family, sleeping in the couple’s closet and caring for their children—which essentially involves putting thoughts in their minds that persuade them to behave. Much of the book follows Haddie’s gleeful discovery of modern technology, from airplanes and alarm clocks to cars and computers. But there are also darker moments, as when she recalls the horrors of slavery and observes the ways in which the world has “grown both better and worse.” Haddie brings a fresh perspective to Soeder’s life, raising intriguing questions about the meaning of life and death. And yet it’s never clear how or why the author feels so at ease with this otherworldly turn of events. His lack of skepticism might make more sense if presented within the context of his previous experiences with the supernatural, described in his other works but only briefly mentioned here. Nevertheless, if you’re willing to suspend disbelief, this is a charmingly quirky ghost story.

Touching and funny, this paranormal Mary Poppins story requires a big leap of faith.

Pub Date: July 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463716172

Page Count: 162

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2011

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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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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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