A vivid portrayal of wakefulness that will strike a chord of recognition in many readers.

READ REVIEW

INSOMNIA

A writer who can’t sleep muses on the human craving for oblivion.

In a capacious, lyrical meditation on her elusive quest for sleep, Benjamin (The Middlepause: On Life After Youth, 2017, etc.) reflects on the long nights she lies awake, watching enviously as her husband (affectionately dubbed Zzz) sleeps contentedly beside her. Her mind is alive with worry, anxiety (“anxiety is women’s work,” she observes), “looping” obsessions, and “gnawing thoughts.” Her pursuit of sleep makes her feel energized, “invigorated by the chase,” the opposite of the slow, quiet descent into unconsciousness that she desperately desires. Each morning, deprived of the restorative quality of sleep, she feels like a zombie. She has tried all manner of remedies: valerian root, sleeping pills, meditation, Nytol, and cognitive behavioral therapy, for which she found herself in a group of fellow insomniacs, meeting in a hospital conference room, sharing their sad stories of persistent wakefulness. Drugs afford her a few hours of sleep but not the kind of rest she needs; she wakes feeling heavy and dragged out. Cognitive behavioral therapy requires strict adherence to a regimen that feels counterproductive: She must keep a sleep diary and follow proper sleep hygiene practices. Most annoyingly, she is allowed only 5.6 hours of sleep per night, a number calculated by her sleep counselors. “It is a torment to take an insomniac and deprive them of sleep,” she complains. Benjamin finds consolation and insight from a wide range of literary sources: Greek and Egyptian mythology, fairy tales (“Sleeping Beauty” and the restive princess kept awake by a pea), Proust, Daniel DeFoe, Roberto Bolaño, Oliver Sacks (who awakened patients from the locked-in, sleeplike state), poets Charles Simic and Mary Oliver, philosophers David Hume and Gaston Bachelard, psychoanalysts Freud, Jung, and Bruno Bettelheim. Nabokov, a kindred spirit, “likened insomnia to a solar flare.”

A vivid portrayal of wakefulness that will strike a chord of recognition in many readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948226-05-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more