Warmhearted testimony to enduring relationships.



Famous couples reflect candidly about married life.

Hoping to be both informative and inspiring, Thomas and Donahue, happily married since 1980, interviewed 40 couples (including a few same-sex pairs), most married more than 20 years, to find out “if there really is a secret sauce to a successful marriage.” The authors’ disarming ebullience makes them endearing interviewers, with questions including how the partners first met, how they knew they were in love, what they learned from their parents’ marriages, how they resolve fights, and how they have dealt with blended families, survived traumatic problems, and maintain their individual growth and change. “What advice,” they ask, “might they give to younger couples starting out—or the already married—that they wish they had known themselves when they first took their vows?” Not surprisingly, competitiveness emerges as a frequent question for celebrity couples. “I’ll tell you one thing we’re never jealous of is each other’s career,” Kevin Bacon remarked about his marriage to Kyra Sedgwick. Sedgwick stopped working to raise their family, taking a role in The Closer when their children were teenagers. By then, having lost their savings in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, they needed her income. Although couples like Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan hoped to emulate their parents’ wonderful marriages, many couples vowed not to repeat their parents’ animosity or the troubles they experienced in their own first marriages. Some partners—Thomas and Donahue, James Carville and Mary Matalin, among others—accommodate vastly different personality traits. Carville and Matalin decided to be interviewed separately, in fact, the better to answer questions honestly. Much marital advice underscores what Judy Woodruff calls “the eternal values, like honesty, integrity, and respect. And, yes, love.” As Rob Reiner’s mother once remarked, the key to a long marriage is to “find someone who can stand you.” Other contributors include Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth, and Joanna and Chip Gaines.

Warmhearted testimony to enduring relationships.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-298258-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

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A welcome greatest-hits package from Sedaris.

It’s not easy to pick out fact from fiction in the author’s sidelong takes on family, travel, relationships, and other topics. He tends toward the archly droll in either genre, both well represented in this gathering, always with a perfectly formed crystallization of our various embarrassments and discomforts. An example is a set piece that comes fairly early in the anthology: the achingly funny “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” with its spot-on reminiscence of taking a French class with a disdainful instructor, a roomful of clueless but cheerful students, and Sedaris himself, who mangles the language gloriously, finally coming to understand his teacher’s baleful utterances (“Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section”) without being able to reply in any way that does not destroy the language of Voltaire and Proust. Sedaris’ register ranges from doggerel to deeply soulful, as when he reflects on the death of a beloved sibling and its effects on a family that has been too often portrayed as dysfunctional when it’s really just odd: “The word,” he writes, “is overused….My father hoarding food inside my sister’s vagina would be dysfunctional. His hoarding it beneath the bathroom sink, as he is wont to do, is, at best, quirky and at worst unsanitary.” There’s not a dud in the mix, though Sedaris is always at his best when he’s both making fun of himself and satirizing some larger social trend (of dog-crazy people, for instance: “They’re the ones who, when asked if they have children, are likely to answer, ‘A black Lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe’ ”). It’s a lovely mélange by a modern Mark Twain who is always willing to set himself up as a shlemiel in the interest of a good yarn.

One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-62824-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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