A modest but appealing account.

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FIELDS OF LIGHT

A SON REMEMBERS HIS HEROIC FATHER

A memoir of a father’s life as an anticommunist partisan, combined with an account of the political ups and downs of the Czech nation, from ancient times to the present.

Hurka (Writing/Tufts Univ.) toured Prague with his Aunt Mira after the fall of Communism in 1993, and he narrates the story of Czech resistance to the Nazi and Communist occupations while describing his own experiences in the city. Prague became one of the great sacrificial lambs of the 20th century: the author recounts how British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain attempted to placate Hitler by giving up Czechoslovakia during negotiations at Munich in 1938. When the Communists took power in 1944, Hurka’s grandfather was killed and his father, Josef, was jailed as a political prisoner on false charges. The author’s grandmother and his Aunt Mira were thus left to fend for themselves—enduring midnight raids from the Communist secret police as they attempted to ferret out information about Josef’s activities in the Underground. After surviving five Communist prisons, Josef came out of jail determined to fight. He joined a resistance group and helped Joseph Macek (an anticommunist politician) and his wife Bela escape Czechoslovakia in December 1949. After another dangerous mission in 1950, Josef disappeared and was reported dead—but in fact he had gone underground. The author recalls that his father “presented himself as a U.S. Air Force Captain, a meteorologist, a Colonel in the Norwegian army”—and that he “carried two pills . . . one to keep awake, another cyanide.” Eventually Josef defected to the US and was able to bring his family there to join him. Before leaving the land that his father had refused to return to, the author visited Hradcany Castle—the ancient palace of Bohemian kings, now home to the President of the Czech Republic—and noticed a flag flying from the battlements emblazoned with the motto Truth Prevails.

A modest but appealing account.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-888889-25-X

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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