Poignancy without pity, triumph without glory.

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Approaching Neverland

A MEMOIR OF EPIC TRAGEDY & HAPPILY EVER AFTER

A captivating memoir of love, loss, mental illness and redemption.

Kennedy walked into her first day of first grade alone, with unkempt hair that both her parents had neglected to brush. So begins her saga of having a mother whose mental illness (eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder) resulted in multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. Her mother’s condition led to greater challenges than messy hair, of course, which included near-fatal episodes involving delusional beliefs. The book’s scope ranges far beyond this single issue, however; Kennedy paints a vivid picture of a family’s travails and triumphs. She describes unintended pregnancies, unacknowledged homosexuality, substance abuse, military service in Vietnam, attempted suicide and homicide. Kennedy grounds her family’s history in the zeitgeist of changing times, enriching the narrative by illustrating the impact of societal issues on her loved ones. Her sophisticated rendering of bittersweet situations evokes complex emotional reactions. Despite the masterful emotional portrayal, Kennedy sometimes skims the surface when she discusses her own grief. A grittier discussion of that personal topic might have improved the memoir, but it’s not an omission that brings down the book as a whole. Each character—portrayed with empathy and balance—speaks with his or her distinctive voice, adding a layer of realism to dialogue. Kennedy’s straightforward writing and economical prose lend density to her telling; every page feels significant. Apt, memorable phrases—“Her voice sat up straight” and “[L]ife was an illusion. Love was the real living”—further animate the work. Kennedy’s experiences form a unique constellation, but the life lessons are universal.

Poignancy without pity, triumph without glory.

Pub Date: March 20, 2009

ISBN: 978-1440126123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2012

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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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A top-notch political biography.

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PELOSI

A cradle-to-today portrait of a master politician who “shattered the ‘marble ceiling’ and blazed a new trail for women.”

Born in 1940 into an avidly political family, Nancy D'Alesandro absorbed a great deal about electoral politics from her father—a five-term Congressman and, later, three-term mayor of Baltimore—and from her mother, who supported her husband's campaigning in addition to raising seven children (tragically, one died at age 3). TIME national political correspondent and CNN political analyst Ball uses numerous memorable anecdotes to portray Pelosi's childhood, adolescence, early married life, and mothering of five children. Establishing a family base in San Francisco because of her husband's career in finance, Pelosi had no initial plans to enter politics. Ball explains clearly how that opinion evolved, with Pelosi entering the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987. In large portions of the narrative, the author focuses on Pelosi’s remarkable ability to overcome myriad stereotypes and outright misogyny to achieve ever more powerful positions in the House. Ball delves into Pelosi's leadership on a variety of controversial issues—e.g., the Iraq War (“to Pelosi and, by that point, most Americans, it seemed devastatingly obvious that the war had been a tragic misadventure”) and the 2008 financial meltdown—while also offering intriguing information about her professional relationships with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and dozens of other recognizable names. It is no surprise that Pelosi is a relentless workaholic, and Ball provides plenty of instructive examples. Other personal details—“she never drank alcohol, rarely had caffeine that wasn’t from her beloved dark chocolate and didn’t need more than a few hours’ sleep per night”—add human touches to a subject who is intensely private and never “indulges in public introspection.” Ultimately, this is a portrait of a persistent, fearless leader undaunted in the face of relentless opposition. Ball obviously admires Pelosi, but this is not a hagiography.

A top-notch political biography. (photo insert)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25286-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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