An important and impassioned document of unimaginable tragedy—also a difficult and rather joyless read, but that’s probably...

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HEART LIKE WATER

SURVIVING KATRINA AND LIFE IN ITS DISASTER ZONE

A man who stayed for the storm, and what he saw after.

Clark, a journalist and the founder of Light of New Orleans Publishing, defied the compulsory evacuation of New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached his beloved city, and he and a similarly contrarian group of French Quarter residents spent the ensuing weeks in the alternately nightmarish and summer camp-like ruins of the fabled Big Easy, struggling to restore some semblance of order to the chaotic uncertainty that surrounded them. Clark evokes the fear, confusion, despair and perverse exhilaration he and his fellow survivors experienced as they confronted the massive destruction and eerie emptiness left in Katrina’s wake, foraging for food, water and alcohol (lots and lots of alcohol—the daily consumption of these hardies would stun a rhinoceros). Clark recorded conversations with the people he encountered on his travels through his ruined home, and the stories he collects range from the horrific (rapes in refugee shelters, evacuees dying of dehydration stuck on the interstate, people hurling infants from the sewage-swamped Superdome) to the inspirational (many residents displayed heroic selflessness, distributing food, supplies and medical attention to those unable to fend for themselves). After a short period of “school’s out” giddiness, Clark’s reportage acquires a steady undercurrent of rage, directed at, among other things, the government’s tail-chasing, bureaucratically driven failure to take care of its citizens in a timely manner; the bully-boy tactics of some of the official personnel dispatched to maintain “order” in the devastation; the misinformation and confusion sown by the rapacious national news media; and the short-sighted environmental policies that left New Orleans vulnerable to such calamity in the first place. Powerful stuff, but the narrative becomes repetitive and somewhat numbing. Also, Clark has a predilection for pseudo-Kerouacian flights of poetic fancy, and his heavily dwelt-upon girlfriend troubles, which are undoubtedly important to him, but that pall in the face of profound destruction and loss.

An important and impassioned document of unimaginable tragedy—also a difficult and rather joyless read, but that’s probably appropriate.

Pub Date: July 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4165-3763-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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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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