Nothing too compelling, but this epistolary testament to a close friendship will surely appeal to Child fans.




The letters exchanged between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto from 1952 to ’61, as the former was creating the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961).

During many years of research, culinary historian and biographer Reardon (M.F.K. Fisher Among the Pots and Pans, 2008, etc.) had collected most of DeVoto’s letters to Child, but it wasn’t until 2006, when the Avis DeVoto papers were unsealed after 30 years archived in a Cambridge library, that she read those written by Child. Of the more than 400 letters they mailed to each other between 1952 and ’88, Reardon has selected those that capture the first nine years of their friendship, making only minor adjustments (accents for French words, punctuation for clarity). Child’s letters were written from the myriad cities where her husband was stationed for his work in the U.S. State Department: Paris, Marseille, Washington, D.C., Oslo and elsewhere; DeVoto’s were all postmarked in Cambridge, Mass. The women’s correspondence began when Child wrote to DeVoto’s husband, journalist Bernard DeVoto, praising his Harper’s article about knives, and it was Avis, not he, who responded. Living in Paris, Child had been consumed by an obsession with French food and was teaching cooking classes and writing a book on the subject. She sent the first draft to Avis, who played a vital role in getting it published. Even before they met in person, DeVoto and Child formed a bond strong enough to qualify as “soul mate[s].” Rooted in a shared love of great food, their exchanges cover recipes, family news, all the quotidian ins and outs of their lives, emotions, enthusiasm for the book and all the many trials of finding it a publisher and seeing Julia’s endeavor brought to light in America. The letters are detailed, engaging, witty, warmhearted, and immensely honest, and the women's comfort in their friendship is evidenced by the total lack of pretense and the vast quantity of letters they shared, most of which are signed off with love.

Nothing too compelling, but this epistolary testament to a close friendship will surely appeal to Child fans.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-41771-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


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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