A slim, thoughtful, and candid account of a single, sober mother seeking fulfillment.

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SOBER HEART

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND LOVE IN RECOVERY

Journalist and musician Lerner shares lessons that she learned while recovering from alcoholism in this debut essay collection.

The author says that she started a blog in the hope of combating a stereotype that she calls “The Guy in the Trench Coat”—a visual of a disheveled man, lingering on a street corner with a pint bottle of liquor in his pocket. She says that this idea of an alcoholic lingers not only in the minds of the general public, but also in those of addicts: “During my brief career as a problem drinker, I didn’t think I had a problem,” she writes in her introduction to this book. “Why not? Because I never turned into The Guy in the Trench Coat.” The essays collected here discuss Lerner’s five years as a drinker and eight years of sobriety, focusing particularly on the ways that her addiction related to her identity as a single mother who was unlucky in love. The essays, rarely longer than three pages in length, provide snapshots into the recovery process, addressing temptation, longing for approval, and figuring out how to fill one’s day, absent the structure that drinking provides. Some cover difficult moments, such as when Lerner met her recovering-alcoholic ex for lunch, and he told her that he’d received a terminal health diagnosis—and was drinking again. Others deal with more quotidian topics, such as Lerner’s inability to finish the E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey because she didn’t find it relatable. The author offers many bits of useful wisdom, as when she says, “A gentle ‘no’ is the essence of sober behavior—just as important to master as a thoughtful ‘yes.’ ” Overall, her book illustrates how varied the experience of alcoholism can be, and how much of recovery is concerned with things other than the fear of relapse. It will likely appeal most to readers whose midlife drinking problems developed as a means of coping with other difficult issues. Such problems are not erased by sobriety, Lerner points out, but she effectively shows how her sobriety allowed her to finally confront other problems.

A slim, thoughtful, and candid account of a single, sober mother seeking fulfillment.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 132

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2019

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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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