Come for the scandalous marriage, but stay for the engaging cultural study of a time and place.

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OY VEY, I'M GOING TO CHURCH

A MEMOIR

A debut memoir offers a wealth of mid-20th-century, upper-middle-class Jewish lore.

Krissel was born in 1941 into a Jewish upper-middle-class family. Her immigrant grandfather Morris became an extremely rich success, thanks to his brown grocery bag business. By the time she was born, he was the patriarch to whom abject obedience was owed. His two daughters, Kitty and Mimi, and their husbands lived cheek by jowl with one another and with Morris and his wife, Esther, on an estate in Mount Kisco, New York, or in an apartment house in Manhattan. In addition, the sons-in-law were dragooned into the family business. Kitty and Mimi filled their days schmoozing on the phone and shopping. In an age of robust anti-Semitism, there were Jewish country clubs, schools, and summer camps. About 20 families—“the Gang”—composed a very tightknit Jewish community, by choice and necessity. But when the author was to start ninth grade, Kitty decided to send her to a gentile, all-girls private high school—a fateful decision indeed. Krissel (who is referred to as “Toni” just once) was uncomfortable at first but eventually, because she was a good athlete, made friends. This breakthrough led inevitably to her meeting and marrying “Superwasp,” a lawyer whose forebears actually did come over on the Mayflower. The union produced three kids and still endures. Superwasp was accepted by the author’s family with surprisingly little trauma, with any objections basically being more cultural than religious. Krissel is a competent writer, offering some vivid anecdotes and rich historical details. But the memoir sometimes reads like diary jottings, and is a bit scattershot, as if recorded with the equivalent of a hand-held camera. One does wonder about the anonymity of it all. There are no surnames and “Superwasp” is all the author’s husband gets. This is Krissel’s right, of course, but readers will be naturally curious and find the approach a bit annoying. Still, as light entertainment, this book can hold its own: The audience will keep reading.

Come for the scandalous marriage, but stay for the engaging cultural study of a time and place.

Pub Date: June 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5439-6256-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2019

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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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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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