There are a few intriguing tidbits about her father’s social and professional circle—which included Norman Mailer, Irwin...

LIES MY MOTHER NEVER TOLD ME

A MEMOIR

The daughter of celebrated novelist James Jones weighs in with a loving portrait of her father—and a savage one of her alcoholic, caustic mother.

Jones, herself a novelist (Celeste Ascending, 2000, etc.), adopts a fairly routine chronology, beginning with her birth in 1960 and ending more or less in the present. Between chapters she places stories told by her mother—or about her—which reveal her as frank, eccentric, wacky, dyspeptic, unpredictable and cruel. As the memoir advances, so too do her mother’s failures and cruelties. She forgot to pick up her daughter after school, she said hurtful things (“You’re a whore, you know that?”), drank too much, lied, wasted money and acted outrageously toward all sorts of people, from literary celebrities to her own little granddaughter. Meanwhile, the author began to spiral downward, drinking heavily, sleeping with the wrong people, feeling insignificant and insecure and seeking psychological counsel. Perhaps in compensation, she continually quotes other people who told her that she’s beautiful, talented and intelligent. Jones eventually married good guy Kevin and had a lovely daughter, Eyrna, whose verbal ability, we learn, is “literally off the chart for her age.” In prose lathered with cliché and peppered liberally with evanescent epiphanies, the author seems to see God at one point, then takes up tae kwan do, progresses toward her black belt and becomes so proficient that even some rowdy teens on a Manhattan sidewalk step aside to let her pass. Jones denies the charge that she has enjoyed privileges because of her father, but the facts rendered here indicate that she has received substantial financial and professional advantages.

There are a few intriguing tidbits about her father’s social and professional circle—which included Norman Mailer, Irwin Shaw and Kurt Vonnegut—but most of the narrative is remarkable only for its rancor.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-177870-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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