Startlingly touching poetry; be prepared to step inside the sorrow.




In 11 bare-bones, free verse poems, Rose (Heavy Bags of Soul, 2012) refines a yearslong grieving process into a heartbreakingly potent distillate of sorrow.

“I am at a loss,” declares Rose’s bereft narrator after her husband’s death. Ostensibly referring to her uncertainty about what to do with his belongings, the narrator is also confronting an existential fact; she has arrived at loss and seemingly has nowhere else to go. This technique—the evocation of loss on one level to imply an unspeakably more profound loss beneath—is one Rose frequently employs. She writes that “No one ever thinks of tragedy / the other way around / when nothing is left but shoes,” noticing that the “space between my fingers / is ever present. / At any moment, / small slivers,” and other fingers will never interlace with hers again. The sparseness of her verse—often a single beat or two per line—borders on gaunt and serves to codify the body’s and psyche’s inward collapses under the weight of grief, the instinctively protective drawing inward until “we are balled up in the fetal position.” She also structurally simulates the simultaneous, and paradoxical, scattering of self that accompanies a loss of this magnitude. Upon her husband’s death, she is at once “a wall” with “no door,” “the I’s that must witness” and the peripatetic who has “been bleeding out / all over the house. / I can walk / up and down the stairs / tens of times.” The difficulty of relationships—“So much compromise / when it comes to another”—urges her to acknowledge that “some part should feel like freedom / it should feel like freedom / it should,” yet what she finds is that his absence has become a violation of self: “Sorrow has left me naked / in a way I couldn’t have imagined, / leaving my life open to all. / Every nook and cranny.” The recovery of self, the poems reveal, is a long and always incomplete process. Though slightly marred by a handful of prosaic moments, the overall force of these poems is such that lines as simple as “I see a blue sky today. / It seems like a triumph” will, in context, shock readers with their cathartic power.

Startlingly touching poetry; be prepared to step inside the sorrow.

Pub Date: March 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482791822

Page Count: 46

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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