An intricate, visually lavish dive into a religiously influenced creative process.

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A PENCIL IN GOD'S HAND

THE STORY OF THE ONLY AMERICAN ARCHITECT TO DESIGN A BUILDING IN THE VATICAN

In this debut memoir, a building designer asserts that divine inspiration helped turn an offbeat chapel into a jewel.

Pittsburgh-based architect Astorino was called to Rome in 1993 to consult on a proposed residence hall in Vatican City for visiting cardinals and bishops. The project stirred public controversy because the proposed structure would block views of St. Peter’s Basilica. As he devised a new design that lowered the building’s height, the process flowed so rapturously, he says, that he “felt like a pencil in someone’s hand.” However, Vatican bureaucrats resisted the plan. The devout author was bitterly disappointed, but then he experienced an epiphany in which the Holy Spirit prompted him to follow “the path of inner surrender and resignation.” Later, the Vatican commissioned him to design a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit. After praying for guidance, he and his colleagues received a burst of inspiration that “felt natural and comfortable…as if someone were holding our hands.” The result was an innovative, modernist design based on triangle motifs, featuring a series of sharply peaked roofs, a marble floor of richly colored triangular grids, and a glass partition looking out on an ancient Roman wall hung with sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross. The chapel is so inviting, Astorino says, that it’s become Pope Francis’ favorite place to celebrate Mass. (The book also includes an admiring tribute to Pope Francis’ intellect, avoidance of luxury, love of the poor, and willingness to pose for pictures with pilgrims.) Astorino and debut co-author Carney, a Franciscan nun, infuse this engaging architectural appreciation and procedural with Catholic ardor throughout: “The lighting system—its source recessed and carefully hidden—would augment the contemplative atmosphere of the chapel and reflect the mystery of the Holy Spirit.” They also illustrate the heartfelt remembrance with many sumptuous photographs of the finished chapel as well as of various blueprints, models, and other Vatican scenes, including Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and Swiss Guards in their particolored pantaloons. Overall, this book will surely captivate architecture mavens and fans of Vatican atmospherics.

An intricate, visually lavish dive into a religiously influenced creative process.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-9990-9

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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