An oddly intimate foray into the life of this most banal specimen of evil.

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THE INTERLOPER

LEE HARVEY OSWALD INSIDE THE SOVIET UNION

A journalist’s sure-footed probing into Lee Harvey Oswald’s three years in Russia finds an unsettling time of retrenchment and rage.

Why did Oswald shoot President John F. Kennedy? That, writes journalist Savodnik, remains the key question—not whether the gunman had any accomplices. The author believes Oswald acted alone and was essentially fulfilling an inescapable channeling of estrangement that found expression, after his failed Russian experiment, in sharpshooting and assassination. Largely peripatetic and homeless, never fitting in anywhere, thanks to a dysfunctional home life, absent dad and erratic mother, Oswald eventually gravitated toward the Marines in 1956 in order to escape his mother. The regimen did not suit him, since essentially he was unschooled and undisciplined, and his vague yearnings toward Marxism were naïve and unformed. Still, he managed to force the hand of the Soviet Union when he tried to defect, then attempted suicide to garner sympathy for his cause; incredibly, Russia allowed him to stay and even gave him a job and apartment in Minsk, thus endowing this inconsequential transient with something like heroic status. Even women found the outsider attractive, something he never had experienced before, although most of his co-workers at the Experimental Department in the Minsk Radio Factory kept their distance from the rather too-clean, meek former American. Savodnik gamely looks at the various friendships Oswald made, surely all of them monitored by the KGB, as his resolve to stay began to crumble after a year and some months. He recognized that he would not find a home in Russia as he had hoped—another in a long series of “interloping” failures. Oswald’s dissatisfaction would fatally seize on something, somewhere, soon.

An oddly intimate foray into the life of this most banal specimen of evil.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-465-02181-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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