A sometimes-slow tale of remarkable perseverance and devotion that elicits anger and admiration.

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A WHIFF OF PENNYROYAL

A SOUTHERN WOMAN'S STORY

Written by Patti Rust in the late 1970s, and recently edited and rewritten by her daughter-in-law, Karilyn Rust, this debut memoir recounts the passionate love story of two damaged souls—one emotionally crippled by circumstance, the other plagued by mental illness.

In October 1919, Patti, 4 years old, was sent to live with the wealthy O’Neill family in Rome, Georgia. Her poverty-stricken, widowed mother had been cajoled into allowing the O’Neills to raise Joy as their own daughter. They changed her name to Patti and instructed her never to admit that she was adopted. Her new father was kind, but Rosa O’Neill was an unloving tyrant, cruel in words and deeds. Patti was given all the upper-class advantages, but Rosa always reminded her that she came from “poor white trash.” During the summer of her freshman year in college, Patti met Harry Rust, from Birmingham, Alabama, and it was as if they instantly completed one another. Two years of inconsistent courtship led to their wedding in 1936. What wasn’t understood at the time was that Harry suffered from undiagnosed bipolar disorder. He was brilliantly creative and adored Patti but was given to fits of despair, hypochondria, selfishness, hours of weeping, and, in later years, violent rages. Patti stood by him through 24 years of marriage until his death at 47, most likely by suicide. The smoothly flowing narrative, as revised by Karilyn to read “more like a novel,” contains extensive dialogue that probably reflects tone and content rather than actual duplication of conversations. Patti’s anger toward Rosa and compassion for Harry ring clear with authentic feeling. Long passages devoted to Harry’s “episodes” and detailed descriptions of every aspect of the ever expanding house they built, the meals served, and the clothing worn grow tedious, but they do offer a visceral image of a privileged, albeit dysfunctional, life in the mid-20th-century deep South. There is also a scathing indictment of the woefully inadequate psychiatric treatment Harry received.

A sometimes-slow tale of remarkable perseverance and devotion that elicits anger and admiration.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-365-75649-8

Page Count: 508

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2017

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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