Shirley McCallum’s story is an ode to the memory of a vivacious young woman and an open letter of sympathy and support for...

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A QUIET COURAGE

A father’s poignant memorial of his daughter.

Shirley McCallum was a shy, unassuming little girl who loved horses; from her first pony to her first competition, Shirley lived to ride. One of her hometown’s biggest equestrian events was the Selkirk Common Riding, a 13-mile ride that was Shirley’s all-time favorite event—and one she was determined never to miss. Shirley’s high school years were the same as any other teen, filled with friends, dances and, of course, boys. At 18-years-old, she accepted a job at a riding center that came complete with an apartment. On her own, working and living full-time with her beloved horses, Shirley had it all. However, a few short years later, her life changed forever when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. McCallum writes of his daughter’s battle with cancer as seen through his eyes and in a way only a father could, paying witness to the slow deterioration of his young daughter and homage to her courage and stanch determination to soldier on, for herself, her family and her new husband, despite the pain and oft-debilitating side effects of her treatments. McCallum writes with a straightforward, open honesty, unafraid to bare the fears or the tears that he and his wife shared through such an incredibly difficult time. Though the years would be sprinkled with moments of laughter and happiness, his words carry with them the uneasy acceptance of the ultimate conclusion, even as he continued to pray for a miracle. Shirley’s last moments were peaceful, and McCallum eloquently describes his daughter being cradled by her mother: “The arms that held her as she came into the world were holding her as she left.”

Shirley McCallum’s story is an ode to the memory of a vivacious young woman and an open letter of sympathy and support for others who may be going through a similar, life-altering experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456793661

Page Count: 89

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2011

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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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