A trenchant philosophical essay reminiscent of the best of Garry Wills; smart moralizing in a time governed by its archly...

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THE BEST YEARS OF THEIR LIVES

KENNEDY, JOHNSON, AND NIXON IN 1948: LEARNING THE SECRETS OF POWER

A study of three intersecting political lives in the annus mirabilis of 1948, when Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson “committed themselves to a mature and focused political ruthlessness.”

That year, writes award-winning Time columnist Morrow (Evil, 2003, etc.), marked crises for each. Having been through WWII, each in his own way, the three were ready for more than the kind of qualified readmission to society promised in the emblematic film The Best Years of Their Lives, from which Morrow borrows his title. They sensed that destiny had come a-calling after their “formative ordeals”: As if reborn, they took on knightly errands. Nixon earned his first measure of fame in the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings of 1948–50, far and away the most intelligent of all those who served that dubious cause. Johnson was employing hitherto unknown dirty tricks, to say nothing of presciently media-savvy electoral techniques, to defeat a popular Texas governor in his run for the Senate. Kennedy fended off the onset of Addison’s disease while chasing bevies of beauties until his powerful father ordered him to make good and take public office. The three Washington newcomers were friends; astoundingly, Kennedy was also friendly with Joseph McCarthy and loyal to his fellow freshman to the last. They also had many failings in common, and Morrow attributes to each of the future presidents a personality disorder—paranoia in Nixon’s and Johnson’s cases, and something like a lack of moral sanity in Kennedy’s. As his story progresses, though he never loses sight of his immediate subject, Morrow turns more and more toward a meditation on an American golden age gone suddenly bad, arriving finally at a novel moral inventory of each politician: Nixon’s “defining deadly sin was surely anger,” for instance, whereas Johnson’s was greed; Johnson’s virtue was to turn that greed to social good, while Kennedy’s virtue was courage, and so on.

A trenchant philosophical essay reminiscent of the best of Garry Wills; smart moralizing in a time governed by its archly stupid variant.

Pub Date: April 5, 2010

ISBN: 0-465-04723-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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