A once-iconic moment of sports history, now largely forgotten, comes in for a new look. Mary Decker (b. 1958) won just about every major distance competition in her day. As sports historian Keiderling (The Perfect Game: Villanova vs. Georgetown for the National Championship, 2012, etc.) reminds us, “she remains the only athlete to have held every U.S. record for distances from 800 meters to 10,000 meters,” some of them still unbroken. Yet Olympic gold eluded her ever since a fateful moment with South African runner Zola Budd, now Zola Budd Pieterse, with whom she literally tangled during the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. As the author reconstructs events moment by moment, “Decker’s foot strikes Budd’s leg from behind,” and then four seconds later again “comes down just above Budd’s Achilles tendon” with her spiked running shoe. Budd kept running, Decker fell, and a controversy erupted, “a boiling pot of outrage, sympathy, and finger-pointing.” Did Budd willfully interfere? Was Decker playing fair? Budd bore the brunt, even receiving death threats, already suspect because of her fame as an athlete in a South Africa still governed by an apartheid regime. Keiderling examines the case exhaustively, looking at all the interested parties—many of whom, of course, wanted nothing more than to see a rematch between two athletes now paired as enemies in the popular imagination. The “forever linked in the collective mind” trope is repeated rather too often, and the account sometimes gets tangled in tortuous writing (“to men one of the great mysteries of life is women’s intuition”). However, Keiderling provides insight into how the sports machine works and particularly into how athletes remember long-ago events on the field—for they remain fresh to both Decker and Budd, each of whom went on to endure other travails off the track. A sprint down Memory Lane for fans of sports history, particularly sports controversies.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8032-9084-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 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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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.


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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