An effervescently witty, if exhaustive, chronicle of perseverance and the power to overcome the darkest of days.

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FIERCE, FUNNY, AND FEMALE

A JOURNEY THROUGH MIDDLE AMERICA, THE TEXAS OIL FIELD, AND STANDUP COMEDY

Stand-up comedian MacGibbon (Never Give in to Fear, 2012) returns in this follow-up memoir, offering a more introspective look at her upbringing and early life.   

While her debut memoir charted her incremental ascent to comic notoriety by way of drugs and catastrophe (which she overcame), noted humorist and inspirational speaker MacGibbon now shares the story of her childhood and adolescence growing up in 1960s Middle America through a sweeping series of anecdotal, coming-of-age sequences. Already precocious by age 6, with laughter as her mainstay, she “knew for sure I wanted to be a comedian,” even while the nuns at her Dominican elementary school found little amusement amid the “original material” she began to produce, write, and direct. In her teen years, the author demonstrated more turbulent, rebellious behavior by following garage bands  in her hometown and cultivating random friendships with rowdy girls. As idyllically as it began, however, MacGibbon’s youth soon became repeatedly scarred by sexual abuse, psychological trouble, and episodes of violence that not marriage, childbirth, nor a series of spontaneous, ill-advised relocations could harness. The author consistently lingers over the finer details of these sobering, bleak years, a narrative quality that tends to bloat the account with gloominess and delays the arrival of the recovery and hard-won happiness that readers will yearn to read about. Though her extended time as a laborer in the early ’80s on Texas oil fields (“one of the last bastions of male supremacy”) proved physically challenging, it marked a turning point for MacGibbon as she embraced her independence, rediscovered her self-confidence, and began enjoying the fruits of love, genuine friendship, and how “all those earned skills and learned lessons came in handy when I stumbled into the world of standup comedy.” Her successes performing in the live comedy arena (and befriending Jay Leno, no less) finally provide some levity to a relentlessly melancholy narrative. Perhaps the most rewarding chapter in this chatty, affecting book is the concluding one, where MacGibbon lists the tried-and-true pearls of wisdom that continue to sustain her into midlife.

An effervescently witty, if exhaustive, chronicle of perseverance and the power to overcome the darkest of days.   

Pub Date: March 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9860067-3-9

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Stay Strong Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 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 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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