A brutally honest light shone on dark depths.




A memoir soaked in divorce, alcoholism, failed suicide attempts, but also hope.

Growing up in North Dakota, Minnesota and Portland, Ore., the author is the second of five children. Shy and sensitive, she cowers in school, terrified of drawing attention to herself. She’s ashamed of her family’s grinding poverty and fearful of her abusive, alcoholic father. Contrasted with this grim existence are Loehr’s wonderfully rendered reminisces of weeklong summer visits to her grandparents, where she picks raspberries, buys penny candy and plays dress up with “Grandma’s old dresses and hats and purses and high heels.” But life at home grows more chaotic when her father abandons the family for another woman and refuses to pay child support. While her mother works, attempting to support a family of six, the author, then 14, and her sister sneak out and get drunk. At 18, Loehr gets pregnant, fails at attempts to abort her own baby and resigns to marry Dane, the baby’s father. The next few years include having two more children and trying to keep a shaky marriage together with her abusive, alcoholic husband while riding a financial roller coaster of great success followed by crashing bankruptcy. Loehr drinks heavily and grows increasingly unhappy. Dane leaves her, and she finds herself incapacitated, lost in a maelstrom of wrenching depression, exhaustion and even a hospital stay with a team of doctors trying to cure her. At rock bottom, she concocts a list of ways to commit suicide: She tries to overdose on pills but is rushed to the hospital; next, she tries to electrocute herself but fails. The third attempt, with a gun, leaves her severely maimed. But at this point, she gains the will to live. From there, it’s a gutsy walk down an agonizing road marked by physical recovery and, through AA, a spiritual recovery. What follows is well-described personal success, years of sobriety, a true sense of self, and finally, deservedly, the ability to reflect upon and marvel at her accomplishments. The narrative flows smoothly, but there are times when complicated situations seem to beg for more sophisticated writing. However, much of the book’s appeal lies in its simplicity, and many of its stronger moments are those captured with clear, simple sensory details: “The memory scent of color crayons and old hymnals washes over me,” she writes. Her total, awful desperation is captured here, alive but fortunately caged in the past.

A brutally honest light shone on dark depths.

Pub Date: June 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475227598

Page Count: 150

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013

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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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