A slight, breezy memoir that delves into serious subjects.

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NAVEL GAZING

TRUE TALES OF BODIES, MOSTLY MINE (BUT ALSO MY MOM'S, WHICH I KNOW SOUNDS WEIRD)

A dying mother puts a middle-aged humorist more in touch with his own mortality.

Title aside, this memoir mentions Black’s navel hardly at all. The author obsesses more on the feet and toes that have embarrassed him longer than other appendages and on his “flaccid penis, hanging down like an aardvark snout.” Meditations on the author’s body generally alternate with reports on his failing mother and her various operations, including a “bellybuttonectomy” that left her without a navel on which to gaze. Much of the material here could be dark, even grim, but Black sustains a light touch throughout, projecting a warmth that extends from his relationship with his mother through his family life with wife and children. On the one hand, he recognizes that “every body inevitably fails….They are the very definition of planned obsolescence.” On the other hand, though he admits that the darker truths of existence have led him to contemplate suicide, he maintains, “I don’t ever plan on killing myself. For that matter, I don’t ever plan on dying. But I also know that circumstances change, people change, minds change.” Death (even suicide) permeates this book, yet it is the kind of book that some folks buy others to put the aging process in perspective, to have a laugh or two at it, to keep from taking oneself and one’s fate too seriously. So there are plenty of episodes that find the hapless author trying to combat aging by joining a gym or training for a distance race, and there are a few interludes that have nothing to do with aging at all but which didn’t fit in his other books (he terms this a follow-up to You’re Not Doing It Right, 2012) and omits material (such as that concerning his dad) that might have worked fine here but which he’d previously written about.

A slight, breezy memoir that delves into serious subjects.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4882-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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 eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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