A fierce and fact-filled love story with few holds barred.

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JUNIPER

THE GIRL WHO WAS BORN TOO SOON

Two skilled journalists collaborate on the most personal of stories: their extremely premature daughter’s struggle to survive.

Thomas French (Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives, 2010, etc.), who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1998, and Kelley French (Journalism/Indiana Univ.), who launched this project with the series “Never Let Go” (a Pulitzer nominee) in the Tampa Bay Times, write alternate chapters in their latest book. Before the daughter appears in the narrative, the authors set the stage for her arrival by telling of Kelley’s longing for a baby, the couple’s late-blooming, on-again, off-again romance, their failed attempts to conceive a child, their decision to use donor eggs, Kelley’s pregnancy, and Juniper’s cesarean delivery four months early. Knowing that her chances of survival were slim, the Frenches opted to ask the doctors to try, and the rest of their story is set primarily in All Children’s Hospital’s neonatal care unit. Thomas’ chapters reflect the fact that as a journalist, he kept extensive daily notes of his observations and his actions (he read Harry Potter aloud and played Bruce Springsteen songs to Juniper) in the unit during those long months; Kelley’s, which include portions of her Times series, are less specific and more reflective. The authors also provide a capsule history of neonatal care. Inevitably, there are crises, times when death seems close, but with a photograph of a toddler on the cover, readers are spared the suspense suffered by the parents. The authors raise questions about the enormous cost of saving a single life when the same funds could provide health care for countless children, and they are aware of the great risks of permanent damage to an extreme preemie undergoing lifesaving procedures. But for them, their daughter’s life was priceless, and the risk paid off.

A fierce and fact-filled love story with few holds barred.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-32442-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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