Reading this quiet book should provide the sort of balm for those in similar circumstances that writing it must have for the...

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ALL THE WILD HUNGERS

A SEASON OF COOKING AND CANCER

A Midwestern writer finds what comfort she can in food and family as her mother suffers through chemotherapy.

How do you hold it together when things are falling apart? As Babine (Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life, 2015) suggests in these short, often impressionistic chapters, through the familiar, through ritual, and through tradition. The author addresses cooking, the weather, and the state of modern medicine, among numerous other topics, but always with the thematic undercurrent of her mother’s health and mortality in general. Her mother had suffered through a cancer that typically occurs in children, and though her doctors considered her cancer-free, they strongly recommended chemotherapy to keep her that way. “We are reminded, many times,” writes the author, “that if she does not do chemo, there is a 70 percent chance of recurrence and a 40 percent chance of survival; with chemotherapy, she has a 90 percent chance of survival if it returns.” So her mother submitted to chemo, and life went on. The author also chronicles her sister’s pregnancy, the death of a friend’s spouse from cancer, and her father’s sickness. Through everything, Babine cooked, sometimes for her mother and for others in her family, always to have some sense of order and control, a recipe with ingredients and instructions, in a world gone haywire. It’s clear that for the author, food sustains like a lifeline or even a bloodline; there are traditions among the Swedish in Minnesota, wisdom passed down through generations. Babine found Le Creuset cookery in secondhand stores that she never could have afforded new, and she gave each of her new pots and pans a name. She also discovered “the kind of pastry I want to build my life with.” She continues to navigate her way through extraordinary challenges with ordinary comforts, finding poetry in the everyday.

Reading this quiet book should provide the sort of balm for those in similar circumstances that writing it must have for the author.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-57131-372-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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