A tender story gently told.

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THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY

A MEMOIR

A child’s perspective on a family’s ordeal.

In her revealing nonfiction debut, Brown, who published a young adult novel, Hush (2010), under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil, recounts growing up Hassidic in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1980s and ’90s. Vividly capturing the voice of her younger self, she portrays an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community marked by piety, prejudice, and superstition and her loving family roiled by the mystifying, often terrifying, affliction of her younger brother, Nachum. “When I tried to share with him, he blinked, flailed his hands, and sometimes gave a piercing shriek,” Brown recalls, “and I didn’t want to play with him anymore.” The author wasn’t satisfied when adults told her that everything—including Nachum’s madness—was part of “God’s Grand Master Plan”; or that Nachum was crazy because her mother didn’t nurse him; or he must have been dropped on his head. Talmudic lore held that an angel, after imbuing an unborn child’s soul with holy knowledge, strikes him on the upper lip to erase that memory. “But sometimes,” Brown was told, “the angel strikes the upper lip too hard,” making it impossible for the child to remember anything, “even how to speak, how to say simple words. Such a child is born mad, like my brother.” The author felt cursed by her brother’s existence—not only the havoc he wreaked in the family, but because she believed that having a defective brother lessened a matchmaker’s chances of finding her a husband. Only her mother was convinced that Nachum could be helped. She took him to Israel, going from doctor to doctor in search of a diagnosis. The results were no more satisfying than the story of the angel: ADHD, psychosis, and chemical imbalance. Finally, one doctor diagnosed autism. Nachum improved dramatically after a few years in a special school, becoming, at last, the brother whom Brown could love.

A tender story gently told.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-40072-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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

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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