An engaging collection of coping principles for soul-searching readers.

Who's Pulling My Strings?

A woman seeks to free herself from the lingering effects of a tumultuous past in this debut memoir.

When Kirkland confronted a change of career—from territory manager of a Fortune 100 company to beauty consultant with Mary Kay—she confided to a friend, “I can’t fail…because then everyone will know I’m no good.” It was a shocking revelation, and she began seeking answers that would help her achieve a sense of emotional wholeness. She first explored her childhood, during which she says her authoritarian parents taught her to fear a harsh God; she realized that this ultimately stifled her positive energy and convinced her she was “no good.” She writes that these feelings led her into two failed marriages in which she felt “unloved and unlovable,” and that they also motivated her to seek success as a way to cover up her insecurities. However, this book focuses less on her emotional trials and more on her recovery. Drawing on information from various workshops, books, and personal experiences, she details her coping strategies, such as studying her past and its consequences, reframing unhealthy thought processes, validating and exploring negative emotions, and learning to forgive others. One of the memoir’s most appealing qualities is Kirkland’s excitement as she shares successes in her healing process. The book could have been trimmed down, as it repeats many ideas in different chapters. Overall, though, it flows very easily, offering astute commentary and excellent imagery. Readers may find that not all the coping strategies resonate with them, particularly the unconventional ones, such as having conversations with different parts of oneself or considering how one’s birth story affected one’s later life. However, there are many insightful ideas that readers may find beneficial, such as using criticism to learn about oneself and finding compassion for wrongdoers by considering their upbringings. Although Kirkland’s specific background is unique, the principles she shares are universal and worth a read.

An engaging collection of coping principles for soul-searching readers.

Pub Date: June 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4525-9274-9

Page Count: 194

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2016

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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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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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