An annoying saga about a house full of pests.

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BAREFOOT HEARTED

A WILD LIFE AMONG WILDLIFE

A naturalist’s memoir of living in an old barn in western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

Meyer’s conservationist views are of the homespun variety. She and her lover, Patrick, purchase an abandoned 75-year-old dairy barn while participating in the reenactment of a pioneer wagon train. The barn is a perfect site for Patrick’s trade (horseshoeing), while the author is thrilled at the thought of writing a memoir about being thrilled with living in the barn, which is full of critters of all different sorts. Meyer and Patrick don’t necessarily want to exterminate the flies, mice, bats, and skunks with whom they share their abode. (When she sets off a pesticide bomb in the barn, killing thousands of flies, she does so against Patrick’s wishes and feels guilty about it.) Rather, the couple learns how to live with the beasts, becoming nouveau–mountain people, learning even to love the smell of skunk musk (which the author finds sexually arousing). Meyer’s reasoning will cause some, if not most, readers to roll their eyes, and her constant shunning of convenience in the interests of nature grows tiresome as the memoir progresses. She convinces herself that killing mice with traps is okay, for example, only because their overwhelming numbers stem from a steady supply of man-made food. She also engages in a personal boycott of products with already-harvested huckleberries because there is a huckleberry shortage and the black bears have little else to eat. Meyer’s heart is in the right place, of course. When a bear cub senselessly dies, we witness a tragedy; hunters have killed its parents and a game warden’s tranquilizers have killed it. But soon after, when Meyer breaks down and writes “I was crying then for myself, crying the pain of impotence in a fast-hurtling world,” her sophistry again rears its ugly head and our sympathy ebbs. Passages devoted to a fishing trip in which Hemingway is invoked also try the patience.

An annoying saga about a house full of pests.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-50438-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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