An intense memoir that could have been more fully fleshed out.

CIVILIANIZED

A YOUNG VETERAN'S MEMOIR

A young war veteran tells the story of how his tour in Iraq left him unable to cope with day-to-day civilian life.

For Anthony (Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq, 2009, etc.), life as a soldier in the U.S. Army had its perks. “The rush from constant, near-death experiences was like no other,” he writes. But it also had a pronounced dark side. Days flowed together into a never-ending sameness that made remembering events difficult, and physically overtaxed soldiers, including Anthony, lived on prescribed pain medication. When the author returned to San Diego from his tour, he realized that he was addicted to painkillers and sleeping pills and that “it had been two years since I’d even kissed a woman.” Lonely and miserable, Anthony decided that if his life did not improve in three months, he would kill himself. He began his quest for happiness by signing up for a three-day self-improvement course on how to attract women. Yet all he could manage were brief encounters that did nothing to save him from the emptiness he felt inside. Anthony then moved home to Massachusetts, where he joined a group of men who gathered together to pick up women. There, he met a fellow vet named Gunner, whose rage and addictions mirrored the author’s and who would eventually attempt suicide. Anthony continued to stumble through his days and relationships, desperately searching for relief in alcohol, hypnosis, and PTSD groups for war veterans. He finally decided to kill himself by overdosing on Ambien. Catching sight of a copy of Shakespeare’s Henry V, however, he decided to write his story, an act that saved him from self-destruction and began to bring him back to life. Though the text moves to a conclusion that only outlines the recovery phase of his life, this at-times darkly comic memoir serves as an important reminder of the human cost of America’s involvement in overseas conflicts.

An intense memoir that could have been more fully fleshed out.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-936976-88-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Pulp/Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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