A sad but ultimately inspiring reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of valuing not just those who have died,...


My Husband Our Father


An educator and young widow and her four children share their heart-wrenching perspectives of the husband and father’s battle with cancer.

After a short-lived, youthful first marriage, Michelle found love with Gus, a retired labor worker 25 years her senior. Together they had three children and raised her daughter from her first marriage. Although Michelle freely admits their marriage was not always perfect, their lives were full of love, humor, and shared family experiences. They were stunned when 62-year-old Gus was diagnosed with liver cancer. Incredibly, he worked—having taken on a second career after retiring—through chemotherapy and a several-month battle until a week before his death, when seemingly, his inability to work stole his will to live. He had been the rock of the family, and his wife, only in her late 30s, and children, ranging from age 10 to 18, were adrift following his death, despite support from close friends. With unflinching honesty and emotion, Michelle and her four children each tell their own stories, with Michelle’s the most detailed. They don’t sugarcoat their own behavior, freely admitting that, in their grief and confusion, they didn’t always behave perfectly. As heartbreaking as their accounts of Gus’ illness and death are, the true value of this memoir is in the warts-and-all description of life after his death, when Michelle sought healing too quickly in another relationship, halfway across the country, upsetting the children, who reacted in the ways adolescents often show displeasure with their parents. Each one admits mistakes, and their ability to forgive one another is what makes this account so valuable. At times, Michelle and the children do succumb to the tendency to idolize (and idealize) Gus; however, Brittany, with the distance of a stepdaughter rather than a biological daughter, lovingly reveals his occasionally embarrassing behavior. Gus emerges as a larger-than-life man whose life was unfortunately cut short.

A sad but ultimately inspiring reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of valuing not just those who have died, but those who remain.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1452517780

Page Count: 210

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2015

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


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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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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