A brutally honest and sad testimony of a desperate desire for motherhood.

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A LOVE STORY

A woman’s struggle to conceive redefines her capacity to love.

In a graphically detailed, at times solipsistic memoir, Australian novelist Leigh (Disquiet, 2008, etc.) chronicles her efforts, over several years, to conceive a child. In February 2008, the author and Paul, her husband-to-be, visited a fertility clinic to assess their chances for pregnancy. First on their agenda was reversing Paul’s vasectomy, done years earlier after he had a son in a previous marriage. That procedure was only one among countless others: a test to determine Paul’s sperm count; tests clearing them as carriers of illnesses such as hepatitis, HIV, rubella, and syphilis; tests to ascertain Leigh’s hormone levels; and ultrasounds—all before Leigh began treatment to enhance ovulation. Meanwhile, the couple married, but soon the marriage fell apart. “He said I was relegating ‘Us’ to my insistent desire for a child,” she writes. “I couldn’t bear his deliberate procrastinating, his brooding, his rages. The weight of his reproach.” At first, he consented for her to use his sperm for in vitro fertilization; quickly, he changed his mind. “He didn’t think I should be a mother; I was too selfish; I didn’t know how to love,” writes Leigh. Adamant about not using a sperm donor, Leigh pleaded with Paul, struggled to find another donor among men she knew, and finally found a friend who agreed. Years of blood tests, injections, and scans—recounted in detail—resulted in several implanted blastocysts, none of which developed. Over and over, Leigh collapsed in disappointment, only to begin again, submitting her body to continuous manipulation. Paul once had nicknamed her Pollyanna Juggernaut due to her undaunted optimism, but reality finally set in. No matter what the mother’s age, she learned, assisted reproduction rarely results in pregnancy. “It’s an industry predicated on failure,” she realized, and she quit, vowing “to love widely and intensely.”

A brutally honest and sad testimony of a desperate desire for motherhood. 

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-29276-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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 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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