An engrossing, informative, and sometimes-frightening medical account that ends on an inspirational high note.


A debut memoir explores love, cancer, and learning to live in the moment.

On June 29, 2012, Slaby and her husband, Michael, were preparing to finish work (she at a Chicago law firm, he with the Barack Obama re-election campaign) before boarding a plane for New York to attend a friend’s wedding. But first she had to see her doctor. She had been suffering from shortness of breath. Her physician detected a heart irregularity and insisted she see a cardiologist immediately. What followed became a nightmare medical saga. X-rays and CT scans revealed a grapefruit-sized tumor pressing down on her heart: “My tumor was pushing on my heart, which reacted to protect itself by filling the sac where it lives with fluid. There was so much fluid, however, that my heart was under attack from its own protection.” The author was diagnosed with stage 2 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Chemotherapy, the prescribed treatment, first involved discussions of how to preserve her fertility. She was only 33 years old. While the tumor was not removed surgically, chemotherapy successfully shrank it. And then a December 2012 follow-up PET scan showed her thymus lighting up. It could be nothing—the tumor, now one-quarter of its original size, may have wound around her thymus. Or it could be something dire. The ensuing surgery involved cracking open her chest. Then a medical error almost caused her death. Slaby’s narrative is about much more than cancer. Although the unusual complexity of the sequential medical emergencies the author endured, which she details in lucid, graphic prose, threatens to overwhelm the memoir, she also presents a tender love story. Slaby deftly intersperses portions that recall the shifting up-and-down dynamics of her long relationship with Michael. These sections, despite the periods of great turmoil, offer readers respite from the grueling medical drama. As she worked toward physical, psychological, and emotional recovery, the author meticulously documents how difficult it was for her, a self-described “control freak,” to let go of the past and find “grace and kindness inside the unexpected.”

An engrossing, informative, and sometimes-frightening medical account that ends on an inspirational high note.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63331-028-5

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Disruption Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 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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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


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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