A remembrance with lively individual scenes that fail to merge into a cohesive whole.

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UNDER THE BIRCH TREE

A MEMOIR OF DISCOVERING CONNECTIONS AND FINDING HOME

A debut memoir about a woman’s three-decade search for connection and self-assurance.

Born in 1962, Chadwick grew up in suburban Chicago with her parents, brother, and half sister. She went to Catholic school and describes her house as “idyllic,” fondly recalling a birch tree in the yard; she often found solace in its shade. Her mother’s perfectionism made her anxious, though, as did her father's frequent absences for business. When her brother removed a family of rabbits from under her tree, Chadwick writes, she began to sense a growing instability in her world. When she was in middle school, her parents divorced, and she moved to a town house with her mother. She found the new location very disruptive, she says, because “my physical, material world defined my foundation.” She entered journalism school keen to learn advertising but socially insecure; she wanted a boyfriend but was unable to connect to the young men she met. During this time, she renewed her faith in God, the only relationship “that never caused anxiety, frustration, or loneliness.” Upon graduation, Chadwick found work in advertising with a number of firms from which she was either fired or laid off, further damaging her self-confidence. Eventually, she landed a job with a bank and moved to San Francisco, where she met her future husband. Together, they returned to Chicago and found their home. Chadwick brings numerous anecdotes to life with vivid dialogue and details of settings and characters. She recalls exactly what she wore on a date in the 1980s, for example, as well as the flow of each conversation she had over the years. In her acknowledgments, Chadwick says she revised her autobiography until she had a memoir that was “complete with experiences of reflections and takeaways.” Unfortunately, although the book touches on promising themes—including the effects of divorce and the need for home—she doesn’t explore them in great detail. Instead, readers are left with a long series of events, unsure where to invest their energy or empathy.

A remembrance with lively individual scenes that fail to merge into a cohesive whole.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-357-1

Page Count: 248

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 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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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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