A somewhat random but entertaining sampler of meanderings in the Age of Aquarius and beyond.

Boomer Tales


Agresti describes her childhood and well-traveled adult life during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, from her native Chicago to the Florida Keys.

Late in this memoir, the debut author attends barber college and cites the barbershop as a font of storytelling fellowship. Her prose suggests that any customer who heard her spin tales probably wished they had longer hair, so they could listen to more. She’s a fine narrator who will hold readers’ attention, although her book follows no particular thesis or mission; instead, it’s a fragmentary story of her life, with an emphasis especially on her wanderings and relationships during the counterculture-rich years of the 1960s and early ’70s. She was raised in Chicago in a large, contentious, working-class Italian-American family. Her childhood took place in a tragicomic milieu of sadistic nuns at school and nonconforming relatives at home, some of whom were sent to insane asylums. The memoir portrays the author’s mother as manipulative and paranoid; she had a fit after discovering the author’s private diary, which kept the youngster from writing for decades afterward. Agresti writes of her early, doomed marriage to a starchy WASP from the upscale side of town; all they seemed to have in common was an appetite for amphetamines. Their eventual split left the author a single parent to her daughter, Aimee. Before she had a child, she says, she sampled marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD, and cocaine, which she ultimately decided was an “evil” drug. However, it seems that having a daughter anchored the self-proclaimed “hippie chick” a bit more than it did her cronies. The author and Aimee bounced around Alabama (which she describes as full of bugs and racists), the Florida Keys, and even Hawaii. But fate and necessity kept bringing her back from these exotic climes to Chicago (or, as she calls it, “bummer city”). In this memoir, Agresti eschews a cultural-history take on the larger upheavals of the boomer generation, although there’s discussion of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the Rev. Martin Luther King, and the tumultuous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, with Vietnam present around the edges. Instead, she keeps the focus on her own tight circle of friends. Her book largely skips the disco age and the Reagan years, so one will wonder whether she has more boomer tales in her repertoire.   

A somewhat random but entertaining sampler of meanderings in the Age of Aquarius and beyond.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5170-8921-4

Page Count: 168

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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 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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