Philip’s family history is alarmingly transporting, and her sense of place so rich you can taste it.

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A FAMILY PLACE

A HUDSON VALLEY FARM, THREE CENTURIES, FIVE WARS, ONE FAMILY

An exquisite rendering of a Hudson Valley family farm, as detailed and colored as a Persian miniature, from Philip (English/Colgate Univ.; The Road Through Miyama, 1989).

Since 1732, Philip’s family has had a farm in Columbia County, New York. Talavera, the farm mansion built by her forebears the Van Nesses, is where her mother lives today, though precariously. Maintaining a farm on such desirable property is tough. The pick-your-own apple and pear operation the family had run for the past few decades produces too little income these days to contend with high taxes and the cost of labor and agricultural inputs. The thought of losing Talavera is crippling to Philip: “I know where I am when I am here. I am home.” Attempting to fathom her attachment, the author reads the wonderfully complete record of diaries and business accounts and work orders that comprise the family archive. They provide a remarkably clear picture of the farm, starting from the years preceding the Civil War. Although the gentleman who built the house was a bit of a local grandee, the Van Ness/Philip family were not country squires, but working farmers who tended orchards and hog operations, horses and field crops. The letters so lovingly kept also reveal a cast of family characters: “The wild aunt, the radical aunt, the aunt who had been forgotten altogether. All had lived at Talavera and had left their mark.” There are rectitudinous men and women, and there are black sheep: “Gaston was sent out of the country for a while until the affair settled down.” And while Philip comes to recognize that Talavera is much a part of her identity, she also begins to understand the Van Ness/Philip brood were a footloose bunch that rarely had a boodle, and if she were forced to surrender Talavera to development, her ties would never be cut.

Philip’s family history is alarmingly transporting, and her sense of place so rich you can taste it.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-03013-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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