An honest depiction of a courageous, difficult journey.

NAKED MOUNTAIN

Mabee debuts with a touching memoir about a 21-year marriage that began with a most unusual purchase—a mountain in Albemarle County, Virginia.

In 1988, at the age of 40, Mabee, a Washington, D.C.–based lobbyist for nonprofit public health organizations, married a man named Timothy Bell. It was his second marriage and her first. For the next two decades, they worked together to build Tim’s business, a health care communications company, and shared a passion for the flora and fauna of their beloved retreat, Naked Mountain, which had a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The property, which spanned more than 283 acres, had no buildings on it; before they were able to build their house, they spent weekends there in a camper parked in a clearing. Meanwhile, Mabee gradually began cataloging and detailing the incredible variety of native plants and avian life that called Naked Mountain home. In 2006, she and her husband signed a conservation easement contract that made their property “the forty-ninth natural area preserve in the state of Virginia,” protecting it in perpetuity. When Mabee was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008, it inspired her to begin writing the story of “how two…nature-ignorant suburban Washington professionals bought a mountain in central Virginia.” But just as she had her final treatment for her cancer, which went into remission, Tim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The latter portion of the book deals with her grief over losing him and her determination to move forward in a new relationship. Mabee’s smooth, skillful prose is vivid throughout, whether she’s describing the physical beauty of Naked Mountain (“Gradually rising soft blue peaks, complexly layered and rounded by millions of years of erosion, roll like massive ocean waves”) or the multiple, grueling surgeries that she endured on the way to recovery, which are not for the queasy. The volume is also filled with a wealth of intriguing ecological information (such as the fact that monarch butterflies, which stopped at the mountain on their annual migration, were being poisoned by pesticides) and geological history of the area. The author occasionally wanders too far into the botanical weeds in these sections, but overall, the narrative remains intensely personal and compelling.     

An honest depiction of a courageous, difficult journey.   

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63152-097-6

Page Count: 221

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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