Dogged optimism about a medical crisis sometimes detracts from the power of honest recollections.



A debut memoir chronicles one woman’s experience with a rare gynecological cancer.

There are fewer than 6,000 new cases of vulvar cancer per year, making it a rarer type. In 2016, 46-year-old Torres was diagnosed with vulvar cancer—specifically, metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. She regretted not getting the painless lump looked at earlier; by now it was stage 4 and had spread to the lymph nodes in her groin. Having worked in the medical field for 10-plus years and recently completed a bachelor’s degree in health administration, this single mother knew just how serious her circumstances were. Surgery was arranged quickly, followed by five weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. Torres adopts a self-deprecating attitude that makes light of distressing situations. She was embarrassed that her daughters had to help her to the bathroom and care for her wound, but “let me tell you that when you are dealing with vulvar cancer, dignity kind of goes out the window,” she asserts. The book forthrightly documents side effects, such as a pulmonary embolism, incontinence, and balance problems. There is the occasional striking metaphor, as when her skin was “starting to resemble plastic after it has been in the microwave for too long”—and in such a sensitive area. But the author remains relentlessly positive and spiritual, especially in her transcribed social media posts, in which she frequently mentions how much cancer has taught her and how her faith has sustained her. Most pages in the book, which features black-and-white family photographs, also use an encouraging Bible verse as a kicker. The problem with relying on social media posts is that they lend themselves to camouflage: People can gloss over unflattering aspects of their lives and hide uglier feelings. As a result, Torres rarely delves below surface emotions. The injustice of losing her job after a long-term disability leave and the precariousness of her financial situation (for example, she had to start a GoFundMe page) deserve more attention, for instance. Her wedding to a man named Lyle provides a sweet conclusion, yet the book’s ending seems premature because a “cancer-free” label isn’t generally applied until year five. (A physician contributes a final informational chapter.)

Dogged optimism about a medical crisis sometimes detracts from the power of honest recollections.

Pub Date: April 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-973615-24-8

Page Count: 108

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2018

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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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