Despite occasional snags, this spiritual account delivers a brisk, sincere look at a volatile life.

LOST GIRL

A SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ENCOUNTER WITH DEATH

A debut memoir chronicles one woman’s tumultuous coming-of-age in California.

Harte begins her story with a traumatic event in 1995. The author awoke with trouble speaking. She was soon rushed to the hospital with difficulty breathing. Before it was all over, she suffered cardiac arrest and experienced a vision of hell with its terrible sounds of “people screaming from unimaginable torture.” Readers are then taken back to Harte’s early days. She grew up in Florida in the 1960s. Her parents separated while she was still young, though she got along well with her stepfather. She also spent summers with her grandparents on Long Island. Later, she dropped out of college after a few months and went to live with her wealthy, eccentric father in California. There, she experimented with drugs, become pregnant at the age of 19, and married her first husband while he was still in jail. Her adult life would involve plenty of time at the beach, rocky relationships, and even a foray into acting. Through the ups and downs, she eventually found herself drawn to Christianity and the idea of serving others. She would go on to volunteer with a charity group in Africa and be deeply touched by her experiences there. The story of Harte’s life moves in a swift, casual manner. “Let me explain,” the author asserts before revealing how she discovered she was married to an alcoholic. And while the informal tone is inviting, certain portions are more captivating than others. Harte’s struggles to get rid of a shoddy home in Malibu are not quite as memorable as, say, her recollections of life with a father who chose to wear a different color jumpsuit every day. But most notable are the many important lessons she learned. Does the author regret her decision to drop out of college, move to California, and become a mother at such a young age? As she points out, “Maybe no matter where life takes you, the experiences are the same; just the players are different.” In the end, her bumpy path has made her the adult she is today. Her final advice is simple yet earnest: “There is hope for everyone.”        

Despite occasional snags, this spiritual account delivers a brisk, sincere look at a volatile life.

Pub Date: March 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5320-4008-5

Page Count: 230

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2019

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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