An unusual take on contemporary Christianity grounded in a remarkable life story and told with exceptional prose.

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BEYOND JESUS

MY SPIRITUAL ODYSSEY

A memoir offers the experiences of a progressive minister and her radical ideas to reshape Christianity.  

Pearce’s (No One in I Land, 2015) latest work is not just a retelling of her life, but also an exploration of the origins of the concepts that have molded her efforts as a pastor and humanitarian. As a child attending a Presbyterian church in Denver, the author showed remarkable conviction from an early age. But it was after studying abroad in Germany and then working with the Peace Corps in Ecuador that she began to truly see the world—and herself— differently. Upon her return, Pearce became uneasy with a typical middle-class lifestyle, noticed incredible pride within contemporary churches, and felt a strong call to become engaged politically. These thoughts eventually led her to a seminary in San Francisco, where she met her lifelong friend Tricia and opened her eyes to sexism and imperialism. The author then moved to Philadelphia and became the pastor of Tabernacle United Church, where she discovered a strong, like-minded community. But over the years, she grew more experimental and courageous in both her actions and thoughts; eventually she even served prison time for nonviolent civil disobedience and began to examine the ideas of Eastern and Wiccan religions to totally redesign her view of Jesus. “When we focus our spiritual journey on Jesus himself…we fail to see what he was showing us about our own nature,” the author writes, deftly elaborating her thesis that the Christian church’s fixation on Jesus actually works against his most important teachings. It’s a progressive stance and an idea that could be difficult for more traditional readers to embrace, especially with her tendency to throw in New Age–style lingo about “Ultimate Reality” and “the quantum void.” But the narration of her life and reflections moves with swift efficiency, and her passionate voice helps sell even the strangest of notions: Her eloquent passages on life in South America and her own experiences with sexism are particularly moving and convincing. By the time she reaches her most unconventional arguments, it will be hard for readers not to agree.

An unusual take on contemporary Christianity grounded in a remarkable life story and told with exceptional prose.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-359-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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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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