A fitting tribute to a unique, significant writer and man.

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WRITERS REMEMBER PAT CONROY

His wound may have been geography, but his legacy was generosity. That’s the takeaway from this new collection of essays honoring the late Pat Conroy (1945-2016).

Novelist Seitz (The Cage-Maker, 2017, etc.) and Haupt, the executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, pull together a who’s-who of writers from the Lowcountry and beyond for an ode to the real Prince of Tides. Remarkably, what could have been a tedious eulogy turns out to be a compelling read that illuminates the man behind the myth, a writer’s writer, a fantastic storyteller, a flawed genius, and an exceptionally loyal friend. Of course, some essays excel more than others. Sallie Ann Robinson, a student of Conroy’s on Daufuskie Island, which he later made famous in The Water Is Wide (1972), writes a moving account of what it was like to be taught by the larger-than-life author: “Pat saw that our experiences had been limited, and he wanted us to have more.” Other chapters are more nostalgic, but even still the collection feels genuine. How many writers get a 60-author-strong memorial published after their death? For fans of Conroy, the peek into his real life is especially entertaining. Apparently, he was notorious for leaving the same message on all of his friends’ phones—“It’s up to me to keep this dying friendship alive”—although it was next to impossible to call him back as his own voicemail was nearly always full. But even if you couldn’t get him on the phone, Conroy always showed up when it was important, like when another author needed a book jacket endorsement. A self-declared “blurb slut,” he was renowned for not just giving other writers recommendations, but also writing thoughtful praise that many credit for their success to this day. Among others, notable contributors include Jonathan Galassi, Ron Rash, Marjory Wentworth, Patti Callahan Henry, Rick Bragg, and Mary Alice Monroe.

A fitting tribute to a unique, significant writer and man.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8203-5448-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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