A touching personal account of a journey to understanding and acceptance; informative and unsettling.

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A MEMOIR OF NATURE, NURTURE, AND LOVE

A memoir examines the complex psychological impact of adoption.

MacDonald was born in 1945. Her biological mother was 16 years old and unmarried. The baby was put up for adoption, and, at 6 weeks of age, the author became the daughter of Rex and Lorene Benham. The moment she joined the Benham family, she writes, was the beginning of her “origin story.” Sixteen years later, history would repeat itself when MacDonald found herself entering the Phoenix Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers. She had hoped to keep the baby and marry her boyfriend, John. But they were underage; his father was against the marriage; and John wanted to go to West Point the following year. Plus, MacDonald knew that her mother was upset about the pregnancy. In January 1962, the author gave birth to her son. She saw him for only a moment. It would be 21 years before they would meet. John and MacDonald did in fact marry two years later. They ultimately had four children, in addition to the one she surrendered. The author is in a unique position to discuss the trauma of adoption from two sides—as an adoptee who always felt she didn’t belong and as a mother who endured the initial anguish of giving up her baby and the many years of worrying if he was well or even alive. The articulate narrative includes sections that review MacDonald’s childhood and teenage years and some vivid scenes depicting her anger and despair while at the Crittenton Home. But it is decidedly focused on the displacement that author Nancy Newton Verrier wrote about in her book The Primal Wound. Some therapists explain that this wound is the psychological pain adopted infants feel when they are denied physical contact with the women with whom they have established neurological and biochemical connections. MacDonald describes it more viscerally as a wound that leaves a permanent scar: “Adoption creates a deep scratch on the LP of the soul. Every time the record revolves, the needle drops into that scratch.”

A touching personal account of a journey to understanding and acceptance; informative and unsettling.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 393

Publisher: Grand Canyon Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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