A marvelous portrait of a professional woman ahead of her time whose relationship with FDR sheds new light on his...

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THE GATEKEEPER

MISSY LEHAND, FDR, AND THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE PARTNERSHIP THAT DEFINED A PRESIDENCY

Franklin Roosevelt’s longtime loyal personal secretary earns a much-needed, balanced portrait.

Although the boss and his devoted factotum were often thrown together intimately over 20 years to tackle his correspondence and brainstorm on speeches and personnel, they were probably not lovers, asserts FDR historian, journalist, and native Georgian Smith (A Necessary War, 2013) in her lively study. A daughter of working-class Boston Catholic parents, Missy LeHand (1898-1944) was an ambitious, high school–educated, trained secretary when, in 1920, FDR’s campaign chairman, Charles McCarthy, brought her into his circle. Even before his first election to New York State governor in 1928, LeHand proved her skill and devotion as FDR’s law secretary and right arm during the years “adrift” after he was stricken by polio. Moreover, while his wife, Eleanor, detested the role of hostess, LeHand was adept and polished, even garnering publicity as the president’s “Super-Secretary” and best dressed among the capital’s women. Through thick and thin, uncomplaining about being on call in his residence for late-night working (whether in Georgia or the White House), LeHand became part of the indispensable White House “secretariat,” including other core members Louis Howe, Steve Early, and Marvin McIntyre. Smith describes LeHand’s job for FDR as chief of staff, when the term was not yet used. Yet with so few women in such high-end jobs, LeHand suffered the inevitable sexism and presumed blurring of duties, as Smith makes very clear. She noted the eclipse of her reputation after her death, thanks to disparaging portraits by the president’s son Elliott in his memoir, An Untold Story (1973), among others. The effects of childhood rheumatic fever and the untold stress of these hardworking years eventually caught up with her in 1941, when she was struck by a massive stroke and removed from the lofty heights of power.

A marvelous portrait of a professional woman ahead of her time whose relationship with FDR sheds new light on his personality and decisions.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1496-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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