Open-minded, droll reporting on the quirks of human behavior.




A television journalist recounts his far-reaching adventures.

The title of this enjoyable memoir comes from Severson’s curious given name and distinctive place of origin, a tiny town in southern Utah. On looking back on his career as a correspondent for NBC News, the Discovery Channel, and PBS, he says, “I’ve met extraordinary people, mostly good, some bad, traveled five million miles, but I’m not sure I ever left Virgin. I don’t think it ever left me.” He characterizes his body of work as a function of his affinity for the underdog, a trait that he attributes to his mother, Odessa, aka “Queenie.” Loosely organized into sections such as “People & Their Issues,” “Religiosity & Justice,” “Issues that Drive Me Crazy,” and “Storytelling,” the text abounds with well-crafted one-liners. For example, recalling a conflict between a polygamous family and the Bureau of Land Management, Severson wryly comments, “The encounter only endeared them to Southern Utahns who hate the federal government a lot more than they dislike polygamy.” The author is quite open about his shortcomings and errors in judgment and strikes a self-deprecating tone as he covers a wide range of some famous, some infamous characters: Donald Trump, the Rat Pack, Evel Knievel, Ted Bundy, and the Dalai Lama, just to mention a few. Naturally, Severson’s assignments took him to some far-flung locations, like Savoonga, Alaska, where he fretted about an impending hunt (“I didn’t want to see anything get killed and certainly not a walrus that looks like a couple of my uncles”), and North Korea, which he describes as “both a prison and a kind of Disneyesque Magic Kingdom where nothing is real but no one is happy.” An appendix provides scripts from his broadcasts. The most interesting is an interview conducted with a voodoo priestess as they walked through a New Orleans cemetery on the Day of the Dead. Perhaps the only drawback lies in the unfortunate number of editing issues and careless misspellings (“imbreeding,” “ssquished,” etc.), but Severson nonetheless will easily win over the vast majority of readers with his good-natured humor and informal style.

Open-minded, droll reporting on the quirks of human behavior.

Pub Date: April 9, 2018


Page Count: 372

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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