A lean, engaging account of a heroic young man’s resistance and survival under communist and Nazi occupation.

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The Boy From Lwów

A STORY OF WORLD WAR II POLAND

Olbert’s debut biography chronicles her husband’s experiences as a young man in Poland during the second world war.

Staszek Olbert was born in the eastern Polish city of Lwów but spent his childhood in the small village of Pustomyty. While his rural childhood was in many ways happy and peaceful, the region’s violent history constantly loomed in the background. He grew up hearing stories about his father, who died after suffering for several years from injuries sustained in World War I. Staszek’s uncle Józef warned him not to play soldier as a child because “Someday, my boy, you may well have to fight in a real war, and that will not be a game.” As a teenager, Staszek exceled in school, but his studies were interrupted in 1939, when eastern Poland faced occupation, first by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. While laboring under the Germans, he was recruited by an operative from the underground Polish Home Army, and Józef’s prediction from long ago became a reality. Staszek contributed to the national cause in any way he could, ultimately fighting in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. When that failed, he and his surviving comrades were sent to a German prisoner-of-war camp. Although this book is a third-person biography, the fact that the author’s subject is her husband, and that her narrative draws primarily from his recollections, allows for a more intimate accounting of his experiences. For this reason, the book reads more like a personal memoir than a historical biography. Staszek’s perspective is intriguing and relatable throughout. However, it comes with certain limitations. Although the descriptions of his internal reflections always ring true, the reconstructed dialogue often seems unrealistic, and the historical context of Poland’s relations with other nations, as well as its internal relations with ethnic minorities such as Jews, Germans, and Ukrainians, seems simplistic and underexplored. Still, despite these missed opportunities, Olbert accomplishes her primary task of depicting Staszek’s powerful personal story. His hopes for himself, his family, and his nation are moving, and his perseverance is inspiring.

A lean, engaging account of a heroic young man’s resistance and survival under communist and Nazi occupation.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500455699

Page Count: 224

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

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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

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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