A brave psychological exploration of a writer's craft and terminal illness.

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THE KILLER WITHIN

IN THE COMPANY OF MONSTERS

In a tragic turnaround, bestselling true-crime writer Carlo (The Butcher: Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath, 2009, etc.) was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is forced to reckon with an entirely new—and inescapable—kind of killer.

A native of the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, notorious for its dangerous Mafioso underbelly, the author has never been a stranger to violence. An early memory details his friendship with a neighborhood teenager who once defended him from a playground bully; a few years later, the author witnessed his murder by the La Cosa Nostra mob family. Because of experiences like this, he writes that “there is no dark street I am afraid to walk down,” an attitude that surely paved the way for the dangerous and dark work he would later dedicate his life to, when “dark streets” would become a metaphor for the gruesome minds he probed as a writer. Serial killers are his specialty, and his crime writing holds nothing back. The same is true for this memoir, in which the narrative alternates between autobiographical vignettes that illuminate how the author became a writer and brutally honest introspection about his diagnosis and search for a cure. ALS is an unforgiving disease, resulting in complete atrophy of the body's muscles. As he composed this book, Carlo was confined to a wheelchair and lacked the use of even his hands. He makes it clear, however, that his strength of will supersedes the physical symptoms, and dictating to an assistant, he continues to write prolifically and refuses to alleviate his discomfort with painkillers. The book he wrote just after his diagnosis, The Ice Man, has now been optioned for a movie, and Mickey Rourke is attached to star. Small comfort, maybe, but it’s an inspiring testament to what the human mind can accomplish in the wake of devastating change.

A brave psychological exploration of a writer's craft and terminal illness.

Pub Date: Dec. 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59020-431-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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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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