Never preachy, though not always engaging—an earnest story of laughs and love.

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I'M NOT HIGH

(BUT I'VE GOT A LOT OF CRAZY STORIES ABOUT LIFE AS A GOAT BOY, A DAD, AND A SPIRITUAL WARRIOR)

Saturday Night Live alum Breuer chronicles a life in comedy and a life with God.

“All of my life,” writes the author in his first book, “humor had been a natural default operating mode for me,” and that God had given him the gift to make people laugh so that he might help and heal. His early years read like a stock bio for a comedian: making the neighborhood kids laugh growing up on Long Island, desultory attempts at college mixed with odd jobs, all the while struggling as a stand-up comedian, performing whenever and wherever he could. He had minor success on television with the show Uptown Comedy Club (which also featured Tracy Morgan) and was hired for a sitcom with the enigmatic Dave Chappelle and promptly fired. Then came SNL. Here the book starts to come alive as the author recounts his efforts to compete with a gifted and hungry cast. Breuer provides mostly generous portraits of his fellow cast members, and notes that he didn’t become a star on the show until he came up with an imitation of Joe Pesci as a talk-show host and developed the decidedly odd character of “Goat Boy.” One night, Chris Farley, guesting on the show at the height of his fame, called Breuer, asking sadly and pitifully, “Am I funny?...Am I just the fat, dumb guy?” Farley would soon be dead, and Breuer regretted not trying harder to save him. Other successes followed SNL, including a well-known role as a stoner in the Chappelle vehicle Half Baked (1998), but Breuer felt he should do more than just be funny. Conversations with Steve Harvey and, later, Bill Cosby—encounters he took as signs from God—convinced him that his family, everyday life and faith could be the stuff of comedy. At this point he became what he calls a “family” comedian. Breuer ends with the story of taking his 87-year-old father on the road with him, and the author’s meditations on how to properly treat and care for the elderly are telling and wise.

Never preachy, though not always engaging—an earnest story of laughs and love.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-592-40575-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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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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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