Braestrup delivers another appealing, tenderhearted memoir braiding faith and family.

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ANCHOR AND FLARES

A MEMOIR OF MOTHERHOOD, HOPE, AND SERVICE

An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister comes to terms with a son joining the Marines.

Maine Warden Service chaplain Braestrup (Marriage and Other Acts of Charity: A Memoir, 2010, etc.) embraced a faith-based livelihood after her first husband, a state trooper, tragically perished in a car accident. With affable flourishes and a healthy sense of self-deprecating humor, the author brings her eldest son, Zachary, into vivid focus. After her husband’s sudden death, Braestrup was compelled to embark on a ministry career that led her to a law enforcement chaplaincy and countrywide speaking engagements on grief, trauma, and bereavement. Her anecdotes are innocuously entertaining in their brevity, frankness, and sunny delivery: the gushed confessions from total strangers who see her clergy collar; her unflinchingly compassionate delivery of spiritual care at a “woodland calamity”; memories of her father, who served in the Marine Corps and fought in Korea; and the pleasures of mothering (and stepmothering) six children after remarrying. Perhaps most affecting is the sudden avalanche of worry brought on by the “salesman’s enthusiasm” of the recruiter who visited Zach after a school career day. As “the first to launch from the familial nest,” her eldest child put the squeeze on her heart when he decided to enlist in the Marines. As parents’ memories often do, Braestrup’s narrative wanders down Memory Lane often, as she shares many of Zach’s firsts, filled with foibles and amazing acts of bravery and solidarity (at 11, he sewed a rainbow patch on his book bag to oppose anti-gay classmates). While immensely proud of her oldest, the author naturally fretted over his safety. “I was afraid he would be changed into a monster and the change would be forever,” she writes. Sensitive and wholesomely charming, the book is refreshingly free of preachy proselytization and instead addresses the bittersweetness of parenthood and perennial nurturing.

Braestrup delivers another appealing, tenderhearted memoir braiding faith and family.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-37378-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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

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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