Baseball buffs will enjoy this well-researched, smoothly written biography of a complex man, but readers lacking interest in...

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LEO DUROCHER

BASEBALL'S PRODIGAL SON

Prolific author Dickson (Contraband Cocktails: How America Drank When It Wasn’t Supposed to Be, 2015, etc.) digs deep into the controversial baseball career and spicy extracurricular life of Leo Durocher (1905-1991).

Durocher was a light-hitting, skilled infielder for the New York Yankees and other teams before achieving national renown as the unorthodox, flamboyant manager of a succession of Major League Baseball teams. Away from the baseball field, he hung out with Hollywood celebrities and alleged organized crime figures. Actress Laraine Day became Durocher's third wife, and their marriage made society headlines during rocky periods and even during calmer intervals. Dickson, who has authored numerous books about baseball, labors mightily to sort through the divergent opinions of Durocher: he was either selfish or generous, a talented manger or inappropriate leader of athletes, and worthy or unworthy of his rocky path to his posthumous election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The author pronounces Durocher's memoir, Nice Guys Finish Last, as broadly fraudulent, and he claims that previous biographies are sometimes questionable in both factual accuracy and evaluation of Durocher’s character. Although Dickson mostly eschews psychological analysis, the details of his subject’s life suggest at minimum a manic-depressive disorder, coupled with occasional psychotic behavior. Durocher's poisonous relationships with sports journalists seem especially inexplicable. As for his on-field and clubhouse managing skills, his public castigating of players, particularly Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, qualifies as cringeworthy. Despite the Banks episode, however, Durocher acted honorably regarding racial segregation in professional baseball. After all, he wanted his teams to win, which meant recruiting the most talented players regardless of skin color. His nurturing of Willie Mays is perhaps the most inspiring of all the anecdotes presented here.

Baseball buffs will enjoy this well-researched, smoothly written biography of a complex man, but readers lacking interest in the MLB may be inclined to dismiss the mercurial Durocher as an unpleasant individual not worth trying to understand.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63286-311-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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