A scattershot but edgy memoir, marked by wit and poignancy.

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DRINKING FROM THE TROUGH

A VETERINARIAN'S MEMOIR

A veterinarian reflects on a life enriched by horses, cats, and dogs in this debut memoir.

Carlson grew up in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago, but in 1968, when she was 15, she visited her adored uncle, Tom, in Fort Collins, Colorado, and became smitten with the West. She later attended Colorado State University and received her degree in teaching physical education. During her senior year, she met her future husband, Earl, then in his freshman year at the veterinary college. Inspired by Earl’s example, she went back to school to acquire the science credits necessary to apply to the veterinary school; later, she began the training that would lead to her opening an all-feline private veterinary practice in Fort Collins. However, the heart of her story rests with the animals—particularly those who were part of her own family, from her first cat, Pruney, to her most recent dog, Ivy, as well as a series of beloved horses. Two of these horses, Franny and Marcie, were inseparable to the degree that they had to be ridden together to remain calm. In a momentary lapse of judgment, Carlson took Marcie out alone: “All of a sudden, while standing still, Marcie bucked just once, and I flew off into outer space...then she bolted and ran off through the streets of Fort Collins.” Earl later found Marcie at home; she’d returned to Franny. Plenty of other animal antics are on full, delightful display throughout these pages—and so is the pain of losing them, always affectingly related by the author. There’s also considerable space devoted to the rigors of veterinary school, as well as Carlson’s endurance of and recovery from hip surgery. Throughout the book, she pulls no punches when relating difficulties that she’s faced over the years, including her discord with members of her late husband’s family. She compensates for some confusing chronological whipsawing during the early chapters with an engaging overall narrative, which includes numerous tales of other people’s four-legged companions.

 A scattershot but edgy memoir, marked by wit and poignancy.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-431-8

Page Count: 273

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2018

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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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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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