A bleak, affecting portrait of an unhappy family.



A memoir of abuse and recovery that’s not for the faint of heart.

When Swope, one of eight children born to an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother, was 23 months old, she and her siblings were removed from their parents’ care and sent to a Catholic orphanage. Because of the range in ages, the siblings were largely kept in different divisions. At the orphanage, Swope was sexually abused by the mother superior and frequently berated for her behavior. At 4, she and her younger sister, who didn’t speak, were adopted by a wealthy family. There, Swope was molested by the groundskeeper and, separately, by his wife, as well as, it’s implied, Swope’s adoptive father, a physician who brings the children to watch him perform autopsies and allows them to drink beer, which he prefers they drink instead of Coke. The abuse continues throughout her life, leading Swope to experience frequent flashbacks as an adult, although she eventually starts therapy and seems, by the end of the memoir, to have established a stable family life for herself. Lurid details abound, but the most disturbing aspects are the disaffected narrative tone and the fact that not much is made out of the frequent psychological torment that parallels the physical and sexual abuse. For example, after she’s caught masturbating and soiling herself in the orphanage, the mother superior forces Swope to wear red socks to differentiate her from the other children, since Swope is “a creature from the devil.” The other children were told to ignore her; a girl was beaten after she helped Swope when she tripped and fell. “Thus I learned that Mother superior [sic] proved to be inferior,” Swope writes in a neat summation that doesn’t seem to be nearly a strong enough indictment against a woman who also sexually abused the young girl. There’s little explanation of Swope’s methodology. Based on the somewhat unrealistic dialogue (“Someone’s been messing with her” doesn’t sound like a medical professional’s assessment of a child who’s been molested) and the fact that the memoir begins when Swope was not quite 2 years old, readers might wonder what, beyond memories, Swope used as source material. Did she keep a journal growing up? Did she gain access to her own records and medical files? Greater insight would help illuminate the frustratingly opaque sections.

A bleak, affecting portrait of an unhappy family.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475154658

Page Count: 434

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2012

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Gucci demonstrates all the bravado and ferocious self-confidence that he counsels—and the photos are a nice bonus.


A hip-hop star who went on his first international tour wearing an ankle monitor explains how to succeed.

“The words you are about to read can help you,” writes Gucci. “That’s because there is truth in them. These are words of wisdom, like the Bible and its proverbs.” Unquestionably, Gucci likes to aim high, as many of his proverbs attest: “Stop Underestimating Yourself”; “Whatever You’re Thinking, Think Bigger”; “Nobody Cares. Work Harder”; “When They Sleep, I’m Grinding”; “Do More, Get More.” And never forget, “Women Are Brilliant.” Gucci not only shares his recipes for success. As in a cookbook that shows pictures of the end result, the author includes dozens of dazzling photos of himself and his beautiful wife, among them a series on his surprise wedding proposal at an Atlanta Hawks game. After the success of his bestselling debut, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, Gucci has realized there is money to be made in the book business. In addition to the Bible, he has his eye on Malcolm Gladwell and his reported $5 million advances. While he is “cool with Malcolm Gladwell being more celebrated than me as an author…the difference between Malcolm Gladwell and me is that I’m going to make more money because I’m going to make so many books for my following….You can enjoy this book or not, but I’m going to make my fifty-second book, my hundred and eighth book.” Many readers will hope that one of them will be a diet book, as the 100-plus pounds Gucci has lost and kept off are a frequent topic—alas, he doesn’t reveal his weight loss secrets here. Until the next book, try to live the Gucci Mane way. “Avoid lazy and miserable people,” and “Find something to be excited about every day.”

Gucci demonstrates all the bravado and ferocious self-confidence that he counsels—and the photos are a nice bonus.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020


Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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