A beacon of a book amid a sea of darkness.

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THE LAST OCEAN

A JOURNEY THROUGH MEMORY AND FORGETTING

Memoir meets journalistic activism in this examination of dementia as an epidemic in an era of greater longevity.

Though award-winning British journalist Gerrard has published novels under her own name (The Twilight Hour, 2014, etc.), she has reached a wider readership as half of the husband-and-wife duo who write a mystery series as Nicci French. Fans and newcomers alike will find this memoir revelatory and moving, as the author recounts her experience with her late father’s dementia, which inspired her to co-found the advocacy group John’s Campaign. “To explore dementia’s meaning and its excruciating losses,” she writes, “is to think about how far we as a society and as individuals are responsible for the suffering of others: what we owe each other, what we care about, what matters in the world we all share. Who matters.” The most personal parts of her inquiry carry both an emotional and a philosophical charge. As more people live longer, more will suffer from dementia, a disease that affects not only the patient, but friends and families, the medical profession, the economy, and society as a whole. She reaches beyond her own experience for interviews with others facing similar challenges. Though presenting each as a continuous case history, she weaves multiple threads throughout the narrative, along with expert testimony and statistical support. Some readers may find it difficult to keep the specifics straight as Gerrard switches among families dealing with the disease, but the range of experiences and perspectives remains illuminating. The more the author seems like a journalistic observer, taking notes from the sidelines, the flatter the tone, though the best writing is indelible: “When did my father’s dementia begin? We don’t know. We’ll never be able to put a finger on the danger spot: there. Like fog that streaks up stealthily, imperceptibly, until the foghorn booms and suddenly there are dark shapes looming at you out of shrouded darkness—you think you’ll notice it, but often you don’t. Then you can’t.”

A beacon of a book amid a sea of darkness.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-52196-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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