A warmly sympathetic biography of a spirited woman.

BETTY FORD

FIRST LADY, WOMEN'S ADVOCATE, SURVIVOR, TRAILBLAZER

A first lady who overcame breast cancer and addictions became an inspiration for many Americans.

Former TV news anchor and reporter McCubbin (co-author, with Clint Hill: Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, 2016, etc.) felt the spirit of Betty Ford (1918-2011) encouraging her as she wrote. “There is little doubt in my mind,” she writes, “that she orchestrated this entire process.” Drawing largely on Ford’s two memoirs and interviews with her children and others close to her, the author fashions an admiring portrait of a woman who faced physical and emotional challenges. A former dancer and model, Betty was a divorced 30-year-old when she married Michigan lawyer Gerald Ford and soon followed him to Washington, D.C., after he won a congressional seat. Being a Washington wife could be difficult: As Jerry’s political responsibilities increased, he traveled constantly, leaving Betty with four active children and the feeling that “the more important her husband became, the less important she was.” Low self-esteem, though, did not keep her from campaigning energetically for Jerry, entertaining, and participating in various clubs and organizations. At home, a full-time housekeeper compensated for a mother who “wasn’t emotionally available” to her children. Despite persistent stage fright, Betty spoke publicly in support of women’s equality, abortion, and even premarital sex, earning praise for her forthright revelation about her bout with breast cancer. In 1964, a pinched nerve caused overwhelming chronic pain, precipitating Betty’s reliance on painkillers, which escalated so dramatically that by 1977, she swallowed handfuls of pills morning and night, along with more than a few drinks. Besides pain, she suffered from depression, which McCubbin does not deeply probe. Although she portrays the couple as deeply devoted, as Betty sank into alcoholism and drug dependency, Jerry refused to confront the problem. Like many families of addicts, different members took on “various codependent roles in order to cope: enabler, hero, scapegoat, lost child, mascot.” Finally overcoming her addictions, Betty went on to co-found a well-regarded treatment center.

A warmly sympathetic biography of a spirited woman.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6468-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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