Intermittently engaging but ultimately disappointing and incomplete.

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THE UNCHARTED PATH

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LEE MYUNG-BAK

South Korean president Lee’s rags-to-riches account of his life within the byzantine world of that nation’s business and politics.

At the end of the Korean War, both South Korea and 12-year-old Lee were mired in desperate poverty. “Poverty,” writes Lee, “clung to my family like a leech.” Yet a few decades later South Korea became a world economic power and Lee, at age 35, the president and CEO of South Korea’s most powerful family-owned conglomerate (or chaebol), Hyundai. Lee’s story of his rise is one of absolute commitment to sacrifice and hard work—not uncommon attributes of his generation. He takes readers inside Hyundai, recounting tales of business ventures around the world. He tells of his often-strained relations with Hyundai founder and patriarch, Chung Ju-yung, of internecine battles with other chaebol such as Samsung and of precarious dealings with the military dictatorship that ran South Korea well into the 1980s. While the head of Hyundai, Lee was arrested and interrogated by the authorities. Throughout, the author has little to say about South Korea’s dramatic transition to democracy except that he supported it. He says nothing of the seminal role the struggles of Hyundai-connected labor unions played in that transition. As for his role in politics, which he began after leaving Hyundai in 1991, Lee displayed the same determination that led him to the top of the car manufacturer. Here too, though, there is a vagueness that may leave Western readers baffled. The political part of his story was added to the original version of this book published in 1995, and it has a hurried quality to it. Events unfold in a chronologically haphazard manner, and key elements of South Korean politics such as the role of regionalism and the deep power of political parties are mentioned but left unexplained. While Lee does offer a detailed study of his successful run as mayor of Seoul, which literally transformed the city, he remains largely silent on his rise to the presidency.

Intermittently engaging but ultimately disappointing and incomplete.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4022-6291-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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