A well-researched, thoughtful biography of a woman who “became entirely her own person, a rare feat for women of her day.”

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AMERICAN QUEEN

THE RISE AND FALL OF KATE CHASE SPRAGUE—CIVIL WAR "BELLE OF THE NORTH" AND GILDED AGE WOMAN OF SCANDAL

Biography of the 19th-century socialite who made her way to or near “the center of more major events…than any woman and most men of her time.”

Born at a time in American history when females could neither vote nor hold office, Kate Chase Sprague (1840-1899) came to wield more political influence than any American woman ever had before. Her father and first political teacher was Salmon Chase. After he won the governorship of Ohio in 1855, Chase made his beautiful and accomplished daughter into his hostess and political confidante. When he accepted Lincoln’s appointment as treasury secretary on the eve of the Civil War in March 1861, Kate immediately established a social “court” in Washington that outshone that of Lincoln’s far-less-glamorous wife, Mary. Both father and daughter became known for the brilliance of their gatherings as well as the ruthlessness of their communal desire to eventually occupy the White House. In an effort to secure the money they needed to fund their political dream, Kate married the wealthy but erratic Rhode Island businessman-turned-politician William Sprague. While her staunchly anti-slavery father eventually broke with the Republican Party he helped found and made an unsuccessful run for the presidency as a Democrat, Kate’s marriage to Sprague foundered. She became the mistress of the charismatic, and married, New York state senator and Republican Party boss Roscoe Conkling. Their scandalous affair shared the headlines with other major events of the day, including the assassination of President James Garfield in 1881. Divorce the following year “dethroned” Kate from her unofficial status as American political “Queen” and made her a social outcast who would die in poverty at the age of 58. Oller’s work is less the story of a woman’s political rise and fall and more one that reveals how the social limitations of the past created tragic outcomes for talented females.

A well-researched, thoughtful biography of a woman who “became entirely her own person, a rare feat for women of her day.”

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-306-82280-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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.

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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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