A heart-rending story of the triumph of spirit over circumstance.


Burning the Vines

Debut author Mazal writes of living with a violent, alcoholic father in this memoir from Down Under.

The author was born in the early 1960s in Perth, Australia, and her story focuses mainly on her childhood and teenage years. Her father, as depicted here, was never without a bottle of beer in his hand and usually had half a dozen more waiting in the wings. Her mother was just 16 when she married him in a shotgun wedding, incurring her own father’s wrath. She then endured 20 years of being physically, verbally, and emotionally assaulted, along with her daughters, before she finally threw her husband out of the house. During her childhood, food was scarce, the author says; she and the other children were perpetually bruised and malnourished, and her own little teeth began to rot. When she was 5 or 6, she says, she and her two sisters were taken to a dentist; she was given anesthesia and awoke back in her own bed to discover that all her teeth had been pulled, earning her the nickname “Stumps,” a pejorative that followed her until the age of 14. Fortunately for the children, their maternal grandparents were loving and generous, despite their feelings about their daughter’s husband, Mazal says, but although they provided occasional respite, they didn’t live close enough to affect the kids’ daily lives. The chapters of this chilling memoir, organized according to significant events through the early part of her life, are short, evocative, and to the point. The conversational text is pleasantly sprinkled with Australian terminology, adding a local flavor: “with only the screen door between you and the mozzies, the Fremantle doctor (that’s our Aussie name for the breeze as it comes in off the ocean) would make a cool spot on the linoleum.” It could have used a stronger copy edit, but the grammatical stumbles (such as “Dad was pretty good about picking Suzanne and I up”) are minor, and overshadowed by the saga itself. Overall, it’s a painful, compelling read that shows how the author, her sisters, and her mother survived unbelievable cruelty and brutality and ultimately forged new lives for themselves.

A heart-rending story of the triumph of spirit over circumstance.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 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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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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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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