A sassy, colorful take on New-Age insights.

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SPIRITUAL VIXEN'S GUIDE TO AN UNAPOLOGETIC LIFE

A self-help memoir about one woman overcoming a broken marriage and alcoholism to find spiritual fulfillment.

“Magical chapters can start with really sucky endings,” writes Muldoon (Giant Love Song, 2018, etc.), and she begins this remembrance with one such conclusion. Her marriage to fellow actor “Reed” (names have been changed) collapsed in divorce after she learned that he’d been having an affair with a former Miss Universe. Suddenly, the author was facing life as a single mother of a 3-year-old, so to make ends meet, she became a children’s party entertainer and auditioned for acting jobs in commercials and theater productions. As she did so, she took a year off from pursuing romantic relationships to focus on her own emotional healing. Her period of celibacy, she says, forced her to rely on herself, but she eventually met “Will,” a fellow actor and a cancer survivor. Although they’d assumed that he was sterile from chemotherapy, she became pregnant before they married and went on to have two more children. Muldoon finally confronted her drinking problem—which began in her teen years, after her mother’s death—by attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and reading Helen Schucman’s 1976 book A Course in Miracles. Now she considers herself a spiritual coach and “celebrant,” and she directs the SpeakEasy Spiritual Community. Later, when she got a call from the aforementioned Miss Universe, lamenting that Reed was seeing someone else, she responded with compassion, rather than vengeful glee. Muldoon re-creates her story with vivid descriptions, believable dialogue, and enjoyable portraits of such people as her occasional roommate “Skye.” Along the way, she offers keen observations on the “scripts and structures” that underpin the modern dating game, which subordinate women’s needs to men’s senses of entitlement. The timeline can be a bit confusing when the memoir loops back to past events, but the book’s arrangement is more thematic than chronological; the 16 chapter titles align with a final list of exhortations. The author also offers concrete, valuable examples of how the “feminine Divine” can help turn trauma into spiritual wisdom, which should particularly appeal to fans of Louise Hay’s work.

A sassy, colorful take on New-Age insights.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-447-9

Page Count: 232

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 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

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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