A candid and witty alternative to more formulaic parenting books.

RAGE AGAINST THE MINIVAN

LEARNING TO PARENT WITHOUT PERFECTION

Why it’s OK not to be a perfect parent.

In her first book, Howerton, a marriage and family therapist, gives readers a refreshing take on parenting: Relax. Nobody is perfect. As the mother of four children, two adopted and two biological, the author is well equipped to offer advice. “Hopefully,” she writes, “this book will help you rage against the narratives of motherhood and life and relationships and gender that tell us we aren’t enough.” Among other topics, she shares her tragic experiences with multiple miscarriages, her long wait to officially adopt her first son, and the confusion people experienced when encountering her mixed-race family. Howerton’s tone is refreshingly authentic and upfront but not cheeky, sassy, or heavy-handed as it attempts to hit the laugh-out-loud button. “The truth is that contentment is an inside job,” she writes. “So is authenticity. Validation doesn’t come from magazines, blogs, Facebook feeds, or even your best friends. It doesn’t come from looking like you have it all together online.” So forget unattainable goals, she writes; “it’s about opting out of the comparison game and giving ourselves permission to fail, to get back up, and to love with our whole hearts again the next day.” Nothing offers more proof of that maxim than Howerton’s story of her trip to Haiti with a newborn to see her adoptive son at the time of the massive earthquake that devastated the country. She also explores her difficult decision to divorce her pastor husband despite their deeply religious community, which led to “some of the darkest [years] of my life. Many days, not crying in public or in front of my kids was the best I could do.” Ultimately, Howerton shows the good and the bad sides of parenting and encourages readers to breathe easier when contemplating their own inadequacies.

A candid and witty alternative to more formulaic parenting books.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2516-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Convergent/Crown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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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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