Relentlessly positive in tone, Grande's narrative never dives deeply enough to reward readers’ time.

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THE PRESIDENT WILL SEE YOU NOW

MY STORIES AND LESSONS FROM RONALD REAGAN'S FINAL YEARS

Ronald Reagan’s former personal assistant reminisces.

Grande was a senior at Pepperdine University when she was offered a position as an intern in Reagan’s office in Century City, California. It was the summer of 1989, and Reagan had only been out of office for a few months. The author ended up working for him for 10 years, quickly rising to become executive assistant to the former president. About halfway through her tenure, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and her job evolved to accommodate the former president's declining abilities. By the time she left her post, she was married with three children, and Reagan was no longer able to come into the office at all. From her position, Grande had an unparalleled opportunity to observe Reagan promoting his legacy as a vigorous ex-president and then struggling against a disease that he knew would ultimately force a retirement from public life. She undertook some unusual responsibilities at a relatively early age. Unfortunately, she lacks the objectivity and discernment necessary to produce an insightful view into either Reagan's situation or her own. From the beginning, she was, and remains, utterly star-struck by Reagan; her narrative bubbles over with the reverent enthusiasm of a teenager with a backstage pass to a Justin Bieber concert. Ron and Nancy both appear as paragons of public and private virtue, everyone on their staff always pulled together to achieve logistical miracles, and so forth. The author appears as an appealing character—self-deprecating, gaining in confidence and ability, eager to assist a boss for whom she feels equal parts awe and genuine affection—but her occasional poignant observations about coping with Alzheimer's or maturing in her job are overwhelmed by an onrushing tide of uplifting anecdotes.

Relentlessly positive in tone, Grande's narrative never dives deeply enough to reward readers’ time.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-39645-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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