Like reading your mother’s diary: You’ve heard the stories before, but you appreciate her courage to share the details.



Chellis (Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, 1992, etc.) narrates the lives of five women who forsook the 1950s ideal they were raised to follow.

Raised in an affluent North Shore suburb of Chicago in the 1950s, “the girls” were expected to marry the June after college graduation and become “nurturing mothers and yielding wives.” Instead, they broke the mold so they could “have it all”—children and a career—which paved the way for future generations. In the beginning, it’s hard to empathize with “the girls”—they’re wealthy, good looking and constantly traveling the country or fielding proposals. But in time, they reveal family secrets, grapple with unsatisfying relationships and face tragedy. While reunited to celebrate their 50th birthdays, the friends decide to share their stories on paper. Thanks to countless books, movies and television shows that document the era, their generation’s struggles are now somewhat familiar, but readers will nonetheless appreciate the honest recounting of these experiences, especially given how unspoken these topics once were. It seems that at least one of “the girls” was present to witness the most monumental U.S. events from the last six decades: one marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and later befriended Gloria Steinem, others attended Woodstock, worried about husbands fighting in Vietnam, and cared for AIDS-inflicted men in 1980s San Francisco. Chellis, a close friend of all the women (one wonders why she didn’t include her own story), alternates among the characters in quick one- or two-page snippets that can make it difficult to keep straight the five concurrent storylines. The writing is clean with a pleasantly surprising amount of detail, considering the necessarily speedy plot development. Readers may want to skip the preface, which features a section called “The Girls” that summarizes each woman’s life, giving away too much plot for those who want to avoid spoilers.

Like reading your mother’s diary: You’ve heard the stories before, but you appreciate her courage to share the details.

Pub Date: May 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450227261

Page Count: 240

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2012

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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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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