A series of redolent snapshots and memories that seem to halt time.

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LATE MIGRATIONS

A NATURAL HISTORY OF LOVE AND LOSS

Lyrical reflections on the relentless cycle of birth and death by Nashville-based New York Times contributing opinion writer Renkl.

In this unusual and poignant memoir, the author, editor of the online literary journal Chapter 16, alternates in short chapters between her current life as a happily married mother of grown children living in Nashville, Tennessee, and her years growing up in rural Alabama surrounded by a loving extended family. Her narrative metaphor becomes the miraculous order of nature, especially the lives of wild birds she observes from her home office as they devote their brief lives to making nests for and feeding the young only to be, in many cases, fodder for larger prey that must nourish their own fledglings. Renkl’s mother, Olivia, was born in lower Alabama in 1931; married a Catholic man—“my grandfather had never laid eyes on a Catholic before he met his future son-in-law”—and gave birth to the author in 1961. Renkl was so anticipated and adored by the family that in pictures, “they are looking at me as if I were the sun, as if they had been cold every day of their lives until now.” As a child, the author remembers her mother often despondent, stricken by postpartum depression. The family moved to Birmingham in 1968, during the turbulent civil rights era, yet Renkl was sheltered from the greater troubles within the bosom of her family. In 1984, the author attempted a semester of graduate school in Philadelphia, but she was so traumatized by the noise and dislocation that she quickly returned to the South and attended school in South Carolina. Renkl describes the deaths of many of her elders (and her sometimes-onerous role as their late-life caretaker), but the strength of her narrative is in the descriptions of nature in all its glory and cruelty; she vividly captures “the splendor of decay.” Interspersed with the chapters are appealing nature illustrations by the author’s brother.

A series of redolent snapshots and memories that seem to halt time.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-57131-378-2

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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