A stunning story about everyday people combating a brutal history.


A riveting true story of courage and friendship in Jim Crow Mississippi.

With the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act upon us, here’s a story sure to attract attention—deservedly so. It tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between a white woman and a black woman in Mississippi in the 1950s. The story opens with the unjustified arrest of Ella Gaston and her husband, who are pulled over while driving and arrested in front of their children for no other reason than their skin color. Ella is eventually found guilty of intimidating an officer, but the verdict is remarkably overruled by the all-white Mississippi Supreme Court. To ensure that Ella’s future is problem free, her employer and all-around spitfire, Jewell McMahan, takes matters into her own hands; together, they concoct various plans to protect Ella from a retrial. The two stand strong against higher-ranking officials—not to mention an entire culture—dead set on keeping Ella and her race down. Johnson, a journalist, tells the story quite eloquently. She is particularly adept at pacing, which makes for an exciting read. Most impressively, Johnson weaves history into the narrative. Readers learn about Ella’s uneducated, almost hopeless past through an extended piece on the effects of the Civil War: “For its white citizenry, who had lived through the degradation of defeat without much bloodshed in their own backyards, the bitter determination to maintain the ‘Southern Way of Life’ remained a motivating cause for over a hundred years.” But Johnson doesn’t merely rely on generalization; readers also learn about various different pockets of the South and how they could determine one’s outlook. While raised in Kentucky, for instance, Jewell had had very little contact as a child and young adult with African-Americans; consequently, she had little patience with the prejudice she encountered as she aged and moved away from home. Her character is especially vivid, full of spunk and verve. In a way, she outshines Ella, who could use a bit more personality. Overall, though, the story is a remarkable one about friendship, racism and overcoming the odds.

A stunning story about everyday people combating a brutal history.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491730447

Page Count: 256

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2014

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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 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 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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