An important man in his day, neither of Cutler's secret lives now appears sufficiently interesting to merit the attention of...



A biography of Robert Cutler (1895-1974), novelist, Boston banker, and President Dwight Eisenhower's first assistant for national security affairs, the position known today as National Security Advisor.

Cutler, journalist Shinkle’s great-uncle, served in this capacity from 1952 to 1955 and again from 1957 to 1958. Eisenhower later appointed him executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank, which was established to fight communism by encouraging economic development in Latin America. Although quite the bon vivant in Boston, during his stint in Washington, D.C., Cutler shunned the limelight, leading him to be dubbed "the Mystery Man of the White House." One reason for remaining in the shadows was that Cutler was gay. He and several highly placed gay friends somehow survived the dragnets of the Joseph McCarthy era's "Lavender Scare," when gays were driven from government as security risks. Cutler was never outed during his lifetime, though he took no extraordinary measures to conceal his lifestyle and showed little concern for his job security. In his multivolume diary, he poured out his unrequited desires for a committed relationship with a much younger protégé in florid and extravagant language. So oppressive were Cutler's emotional demands that they became smothering, interfering with friendships and at times evidencing an alarming instability. In his debut book, the author alternates between these two secret lives; neither portion is notably successful. The coverage of Cutler's National Security Council days includes such significant events as U.S.–sponsored coups in Guatemala and Iran, but the narrative is straightforward and dry; if it contains any new revelations, Shinkle does not highlight them. He describes Cutler's various rendezvous with gay men in gaudy detail, but to no apparent purpose. Cutler's diary entries illustrate the depths of his feelings for these men but never broach subjects of wider significance—e.g., the predicament of a gay man in a hostile governmental and social culture.

An important man in his day, neither of Cutler's secret lives now appears sufficiently interesting to merit the attention of 21st-century readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58642-243-1

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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