A worthy entry in the vast library of books devoted to a misbegotten conflict.

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ALPHA ONE SIXTEEN

A COMBAT INFANTRYMAN'S YEAR IN VIETNAM

Thoughtful, provocative memoir of slogging through one of the worst of many bad years of the Vietnam War.

Clark, now an attorney in the federal government, signed up for the Army in 1966 as a college kid without much direction in a class of enlistees dominated by young men trying to avoid poverty or jail. There was only one destination, of which the author writes, meaningfully, “while Vietnam wasn’t likely to be a good war, it was the one I had.” Educated, smart, and contrarian, Clark earned demerits for his lack of religious belief (“I was certainly going to try to be the atheist in the foxhole”) but respect for his intelligence. That earned him a not-very-coveted job as a radio operator, a bullet-inviting standout in any landscape for its long antenna and proximity to a senior officer. Clark survived the long odds before finally taking a hit, returning wounded to an “America that I had almost forgotten,” filled with people who didn’t really want to know about the war. Half a century on, the author tells a nuanced, morally complex story of class division, racial enmity, and the always-looming danger of death. In one memorable episode, he tries to convince a young Vietnamese woman to take cover in a firefight. “The look she gave me,” he writes, “was an elegant combination of utter hatred and disdain which held no trace of ambiguity.” He was no white knight but the enemy, and an enemy with all the firepower in the world. Veterans will recognize several tropes that the author carefully overturns, too, including the timeworn “recurring GI fable” promising that a short-timer would be posted to base camp to reduce his chances of being killed on the last days of his tour. No such luck, especially for someone who, like Clark, “wanted to be in the infantry, out of ignorance.”

A worthy entry in the vast library of books devoted to a misbegotten conflict.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61200-599-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Casemate

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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 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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