A short, intellectually lively spiritual biography.

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It's Part of Who I Am

SEARCHING FOR SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING

A woman examines her mother’s 45-year hunt for religious truth.

Debut author Fraser set out to understand her mother’s dogged interest in the religious life, and the result is a kind of spiritual biography. Her mother, Peace, was born in New Zealand, the great-great-granddaughter of a prominent Christian reverend. But she wasn’t particularly drawn to religion until the age of 37, in response to the aching grief she experienced at the death of her mother, surprising because the two were never close. Peace joined the Anglican Church, and it immediately became her lodestar. She wasn’t entirely satisfied with the succor it provided, though, and started to explore other alternatives: first the writings of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, then Co-Freemasonry, the Theosophical Society, and finally Zen Buddhism. After “ten years in the bosom of the church,” Peace officially left to pursue a path of inner spiritual development. She spent 20 years as a practicing Buddhist, and 45 years after leaving the church, she returned to it, this time as a Presbyterian. Yet again, her reconversion seemed to be a result of painful loss—this time her dog’s death. While Peace’s journey seems meandering at a cursory glance, the author observes that an abiding interest in Jesus’ teachings was the philosophical thread that ran through all the permutations of her mother’s religious evolution. Fraser recounts her mother’s life to better understand this woman of contradictions—impulsive yet disciplined, philosophical yet doctrinal. This is a brief sketch of her mother’s odyssey, and often a profoundly meditative one. The author has embarked on a spiritual quest of her own, one characterized by a sense of urgency and seriousness, and spangled with great erudition. This is necessarily an intensely personal, even intimate investigation, but Fraser’s attempt to draw general philosophical conclusions pulls the book in the direction of more universal relevance. Her conclusions are sometimes quirky: the author ultimately attributes Peace’s attachment to the Christian church to her previous lives: “Her background in this life was not the Christian Church which leaves me with no other possibility to explain her attachment to it than to suggest that these experiences must have occurred at some other time and place.” This is, nevertheless, a thoughtful and engaging rumination, as well as a touching tribute to the author’s mother.

A short, intellectually lively spiritual biography.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4525-2930-1

Page Count: 148

Publisher: BalboaPressAU

Review Posted Online: July 26, 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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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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