With a bang and a whimper—and a yawn.

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FIRST PERSON FEMALE

A MEMOIR

“Learning to walk with crutches has an otherworldly component.” So writes Flook (Mothers and Lovers, 2014, etc.) in one of the occasional G-rated passages in this lurid but limping memoir.

Have we lost our ability to be shocked? When the author confesses to having had sex with her brother (“no penetration”), the men in the room with her at the time leer, but those of us outside the fourth wall are likely to do nothing more than blink. Flook also tells about the time she had sex with three French sailors in rapid succession; “sisterly masturbation” with another woman writer; and an affair with her editor. The author insists that her development as a writer, the ostensible subject of the piece, is bound up so closely with her sex life that the two can’t be separated, but every time she aims to épater le bourgeois, it falls flat. Were the memoir by a writer of greater renown, some of this literary-sex-nexus stuff might be of interest, but as presented here, it’s mechanical, clinical, and mostly just tedious. (There are admittedly a couple of memorable moments, one of them when a sex addict with a violent streak winds up as a writer of Hallmark Cards.) More interesting are Flook’s portraits of her mother—suffice it to say that the old acorn and oak metaphor comes to mind—and gravely ill son, both of whom illustrate a point: the author writes deeply and well when the lens is on someone else and the topics at hand, such as death and literary rivalry, are more serious, all of which happen less often than one might like. Still, if lines like, “it’s a delicious weakness that I welcome each time a man nudges my legs open” make you go all a-tremble, then this is just the ticket, though Erica Jong probably has nothing to worry about.

With a bang and a whimper—and a yawn.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-57962-515-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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

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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