Inspirational, enlightening and, above all, enjoyable—a revealing window into the private world of consummate music making.

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MY NINE LIVES

A MEMOIR OF MANY CAREERS AT THE KEYBOARD

The legendary American pianist recounts the many stages of his storied career.

With its soaring highs and sweeping lows, the story of Fleisher’s life, deftly unveiled here with the help of Washington Post classical music critic Midgette, is as grand as any symphony. Now in his 80s, the author began playing piano in San Francisco at age four, gave his first public recital at eight, debuted with the New York Philharmonic at 16, won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels in 1952 and made seminal recordings of Brahms and Beethoven with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra in the ’50s and early ’60s. However, his meteoric rise as a world-class musician was abruptly halted in 1964, at age 36, when he lost the use of his fourth and fifth fingers on his right hand. What gives this tale a heroic edge is not just Fleisher’s triumphant return to the performance stage at age 66, but the fact that, during the 30-year interval while he grappled with “two fingers that wanted to make a fist all the time,” he refashioned himself, channeling his gargantuan interpretive gifts into becoming an accomplished conductor, arts administrator and teacher. He also gained renown as a specialist in left-handed repertoire, performing Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand so often and well that Musical America named him 1994 Instrumentalist of the Year, two years before his right hand regained most of its former form. Though Fleisher provides an undoubtedly feel-good account, he also cautions readers. “If my story is about anything, it’s about being very careful when your dreams come true,” he writes, and he isn’t afraid to plumb darker moments, nor lightly gloss wayward attempts to overcome the emotional trauma resulting from sudden handicap. Fleisher’s humility and copious anecdotes involving many 20th-century musical lions, such as Schnabel, Klemperer, Szell and Bernstein, combine for a truly winning read.

Inspirational, enlightening and, above all, enjoyable—a revealing window into the private world of consummate music making.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-52918-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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