A wrenchingly honest account that deftly combines a marriage story and an art tour.




A memoir explores an art lover’s family life and career.

This account begins with photographs in Pressly’s attic showing her ancestors from the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Her first-generation parents were hard workers who eventually made a comfortable life for themselves, the author, and her brother, Bobby, in America. Pressly describes her school days, first love—which brought out her father’s scary, protective nature—and college life. In graduate school, she met and married a man named Bill. The author began a career as a museum curator, and Bill became a professor of art history. He remained a professor while the author sometimes adjusted her focus but stayed in the fields of art and curation. They confronted all sorts of career hurdles and, more importantly, health issues. Bill had serious heart problems, among other things. Pressly fared little better. In her 70s, she faced ampullary cancer, necessitating the very radical Whipple procedure and a long convalescence. Eventually, the couple moved to Atlanta to help their only child, David, cope with being the single parent of their two grandchildren. This is the author’s second book; the first—Settling the South Carolina Backcountry (2016)—chronicles Bill’s roots. She writes well. This is a woman of extraordinary passion and enormous energies. The test of a person (and for that matter, a marriage) is how the individual handles and overcomes the challenges of life. Pressly time and again passes the test with flying colors in this candid memoir. A side benefit: the illuminating chapters devoted to her thoughts on what it means to experience great works of art. (The volume features copious illustrations, both art plates and family photos.) In Florence, she admired Jacopo Pontormo’s “enigmatic, strange, and beautiful” painting Deposition From the Cross (1526-28): “I was absolutely stunned by the intense, almost strident, pastel colors of the drapery, which in places clung so tightly to the grieving figures as to appear translucent.” The author is a truly marvelous guide on a tour literally around the world, insisting that art reproductions in books are a poor second to the in situ experience that she convincingly describes as life changing.

A wrenchingly honest account that deftly combines a marriage story and an art tour.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-862-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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.


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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