Although the narrative occasionally veers off course, horse lovers will adore this inspiring and spirited memoir.

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ROUGH MAGIC

RIDING THE WORLD'S LONELIEST HORSE RACE

A young Englishwoman takes on the world’s longest and most difficult horse race.

In 2013, Prior-Palmer came across a photograph of the Mongol Derby: “long-maned ponies streaming over green steppes, space poured wild and free—in Mongolia.” The deadline was fast approaching, and the race’s organizer gave her a discount to help defray the costly entry fee. The Derby, a “truly peculiar invention,” is a seven-day, 1,000-kilometer race on 25 wild Mongolian ponies, descendants, writes the author, of “Genghis Khan’s famed Takhi horses, the ones that shouldered his empire’s postal system from the thirteenth century onwards.” Every 40 kilometers, at stations called urtuus, tired horses are replaced with new ones; riders rest, eat, and use the toilets (holes in the ground). Each of the competitors has a rough map of the course, a not-always-reliable GPS device, and “nylon endurance saddles.” In this feisty and exhilarating debut memoir, Prior-Palmer smoothly recounts what happened over her momentous week in August. Right at the start, she fell behind: “Where to go? I was hoping to follow someone….I can see only sun.” Over the next seven days, she fought aching bruises, torrential rain, brutal heat, and a rough fall. She continuously scoured the vast horizon for “hamster cities,” the holes of which could seriously injure a horse, and she dodged herds of nibbling goats while the horses dealt with Mongolian families’ nipping dogs. The author personalizes the horses with names: Brolly, Dunwoody and “7.” As she raced, carrying a copy of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, she channeled her Aunt Lucinda, “my go-to ahead of any equestrian event,” to help her get through each arduous day. After the apparent winner was penalized for overheating her horse, the author, who was second, was declared the winner—the youngest ever and the first woman.

Although the narrative occasionally veers off course, horse lovers will adore this inspiring and spirited memoir.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948226-19-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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