An unsatisfying memoir of the search for meaning.

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RISKING THE LIFE I HAVE TO FIND THE FAITH I SEEK

A New Yorker’s wandering spiritual memoir.

In his late 50s, former Parade editor in chief Kravitz (Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things, 2010) decided that he needed to find a spiritual dimension to his life. Raised as a Jew, he rejected the religion of his family out of hand due to a distaste for the services of his youth. As a young man, Kravitz dabbled in Christianity but then spent nearly four decades suppressing or ignoring any spiritual desires and instincts. This was largely due to the fact that his wife (also born Jewish) was steadfastly atheist. Though Kravitz paints his wife’s atheism as a source of tension, readers find her to be a tolerant, even supportive, partner in the midst of his quest for meaning. Given the book’s subtitle, readers await a climactic moment of conflict, yet nothing of the sort arises. Kravitz seems to be risking little for his faith, and his struggle seems especially insignificant in the shadow of his immigrant ancestors’ memories. The author’s two-year journey of faith traditions was one that could only exist in a place like New York. He sat in on Quaker meetings and was drawn into transcendental meditation. He explored chanting and Buddhism and even consulted with an astrologer. In the end, he settled on Jewish Renewal, in which mysticism and Eastern religions inform ancient Jewish ritual, and he joined a Renewal synagogue near his home. Readers may be convinced that this may simply be a pit stop, not an ending point, for the author. Kravitz is unclear on whether he believes in an actual, supernatural God, though he makes it clear that he is unconcerned what path his children take, “[a]s long as they lead empathic, meaning-filled lives.”

An unsatisfying memoir of the search for meaning.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59463-125-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hudson Street/Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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.

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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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