Sincere and expertly researched, but as the story moves away from personal narrative into statistics, history and science...

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WELCOME TO SHIRLEY

A MEMOIR FROM AN ATOMIC TOWN

Powerful though flawed debut explores the author’s happy childhood next to a controversial nuclear laboratory that leaked toxic waste into a Long Island aquifer.

Freelance writer McMasters (Writing/Columbia Univ.) recalls growing up as a curious only child in Shirley, a service town outside the affluent Hamptons. Drinking in a bar with two childhood friends in 2005, she explains in her introduction, she was struck by what they didn’t talk about: “the year the wildlife refuge near our houses became off limits, or how the neighborhood fathers used to say they glowed in the dark.” Flashback to 1981, when four-year-old Kelly, her hardworking father and beautiful mother arrived at their new home in Shirley, surrounded by vacant, vandalized and boarded-up houses. The McMasters bonded with the small community and learned about how the town was built, the origins of its name and the history of nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory. As teenagers, McMasters and her girlfriends snuck through the lab’s security fence to smoke and explore their former sledding hill, which was littered with condoms and beer bottles. They didn’t know that the unintended consequences of 40 years of nuclear research, which comprised various studies on cancer and multiple Nobel Prizes in physics, would be radioactive water and chemicals that contaminated Shirley’s soil and groundwater. In 1989, the year the author entered eighth grade, Brookhaven lab was named a Superfund site, and “cancer had become a constant in my life, moving from something that happened to a few people I knew to part of daily conversation.” Years later at Vassar College, she confronted her fear of getting cancer, a family member’s illness and the random deaths of some of her peers. Regrettably, McMasters follows up this moving material with pages that delve into case-study numbers and scientific quotes instead of further exploring her memories and feelings.

Sincere and expertly researched, but as the story moves away from personal narrative into statistics, history and science lessons, it becomes less compelling.

Pub Date: April 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58648-486-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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