A mixed bag but of interest to health policy wonks and activists.

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A COMMON STRUGGLE

A PERSONAL JOURNEY THROUGH THE PAST AND FUTURE OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND ADDICTION

A scion of an American dynasty recounts years of addiction, mental illness, and family dysfunction—matters that, as the title suggests, are altogether too ordinary.

Kennedy, son of Ted, is probably best known today for crashing his car into a barricade in front of his workplace under the influence of medication. This memoir opens with that event, promising, “I’m never going to remember what actually happened that night in early May of 2006 when I slammed my green Mustang into the police barrier in front of the US Capitol.” The sentence is diagnostic, both mechanically and materially, of the narrative that follows: awkward, sometimes evasive, with good thoughts clunkily expressed. Why a green Mustang? That detail is less important than the multihued pills that punctuate the narrative. We sympathize with Kennedy when we learn that illnesses such as bipolar disorder fall into a category of things that members of the clan are supposed to face stoically, without making a fuss: “I grew up,” he writes, “among people who were geniuses at not talking about things.” Effectively shut out by his father as an embarrassing reminder of weakness, Kennedy squeaked by with a narrow electoral victory to become a U.S. representative, continuing a legacy of public service—and, sad to say, a history of drug and alcohol abuse. A quarter of Americans have a similar story, by Kennedy’s account. While’s there’s some special pleading involved—“My father would have been President of the United States if there had been progressive mental health treatment for him,” he insists—much of the narrative is given over to plainspoken advocacy for mental health initiatives, some enacted into law thanks to his persistent efforts. That account goes on too long, but it makes for a useful look at the politics underlying public health; to trust Kennedy’s anecdotes, it’s amazing that anything under that rubric gets done at all.

A mixed bag but of interest to health policy wonks and activists.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17332-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 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 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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