Reader-friendly memoir by an author equally at home on the page and on the stage.

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GREEN SUEDE SHOES

AN IRISH-AMERICAN ODYSSEY

With ambivalent Irish-American panache, a politically oriented rock musician recounts his life in County Wexford and New York City.

Kirwan (the novel Liverpool Fantasy, 2003) is a songwriter-singer in the band Black 47. While growing up in Catholic and predictable Wexford during the 1950s, he enjoyed the security of the familiar and was a devoted member of his family, whom he writes about here—his parents, and especially his grandfather—in phrases alternately rollicking and sentimental. Describing his youth, he relies on vivid, memorable language and frequently irreverent images, as he does throughout (“Wexford, in those days, would have left Calcutta breathless in its devotion and adherence to an ironclad caste system. The only comfort was that everyone had someone else to look down on”). Despite his contentedness, restlessness overtook Kirwan, and he moved as a young adult to New York City to seek new experience, including work as a professional musician. Like memoirists before him, he describes the brotherhood among and the conflicts between native-born Irish on the one hand and Irish-Americans on the other, who never lived in the homeland. Frank and Malachy McCourt are among such figures, and Kirwan works them and hundreds of other memorable folks—known to him personally or by reputation only—into his text. Some get their own chapters, with the late rock-music critic Lester Bangs receiving especially full treatment. Bangs didn’t understand the performing part of music—“I might as well have been talking to Billy Carter about the influence of serialism on Philip Glass”—but the critic knew on a gut level what he liked and who would succeed, including Black 47. The band caught on in clubs throughout the Bronx, and Kirwan moves past stereotype in describing the richness of that oft-maligned borough. His obligatory account of living in Manhattan during 9/11 slows the lively narrative but can’t kill it.

Reader-friendly memoir by an author equally at home on the page and on the stage.

Pub Date: March 17, 2005

ISBN: 1-56025-644-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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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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