A thoughtful reflection on life, marriage, and child-rearing told from a unique perspective.




A memoir about a couple who were inspired by anti–Vietnam War sentiments and the return-to-nature movement of the 1970s to pull up stakes in the American Midwest and make a new life in Canada.

Nothing in their upbringing prepared the author and her husband for their future adventures when, in 1972, they bought a 300-acre farm in Echo Bay in northern Ontario. They had moved from America to Canada four years earlier, after learning that the baby they were expecting would not exempt Jack Dunning from the Vietnam draft. Now, they were fulfilling a dream of becoming homesteaders. In this evocative remembrance, Dunning (Education in Canada, 1997) looks back at how she, a young woman from a middle-class Quaker family in Pennsylvania, and her spouse, a young man from a wealthy family in Connecticut, wound up raising goats, chickens, and cattle and learned, often painfully, the difficulties of plowing, planting, harvesting, and baling. In addition to doing such fieldwork, Jack had a position teaching psychology at Algoma College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Dunning, meanwhile, took care of their three small children (Erica, Robin, and Galen), gathered eggs, tended the vegetable garden, fed and watered the livestock, and milked the goats, among other tasks. They also ate what they raised, as they were dedicated to the idea of caring for the planet. The chores seemed endless, though, and after 15 years of them, the Dunnings finally decided that it was time to devote their energies to other things. Dunning regales readers with some wonderful, funny vignettes, telling of Alexander the ram attempting to mate with every cow in heat or Jack trying to recapture a flyaway turkey. These are counterbalanced by the pall of animals dying while giving birth or getting killed by wolves or farm machinery. The author’s eldest daughter, who was always closest with the animals, is shown to be most affected by their loss: “Everything dies here,” she cried when her dog was tragically killed in a beaver trap. At one point, following an account of the death of a cat, Dunning poignantly muses: “losing animals hadn’t gotten any easier for Erica. It had become troublesomely easy for me, I thought, as I looked at her stricken, tear-stained face.” Although the book generally moves through the years sequentially, it also jumps around a bit, as one memory or another makes its way to the forefront. (Today, all the animals are gone and the fields are now worked by others, but the Dunnings still live on the same land.) Through it all, however, the author insightfully questions her path, juxtaposing her life choices against her expectations of being a “liberated” woman of the 1970s and ’80s: “Our lives create us as much as we create them. Mine created a farm wife, yes. It also created an endless search for self-definition, a conflicted stay-at-home mom, a dreadful businesswoman, and finally, a wordsmith.”

A thoughtful reflection on life, marriage, and child-rearing told from a unique perspective.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-988394-00-8

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blurb

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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.


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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