Well-written and fascinating, though its appeal may be limited to the terminally food-obsessed.

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SERVICE INCLUDED

FOUR-STAR SECRETS OF AN EAVESDROPPING WAITER

An insider’s look at the first two years of Per Se, Thomas Keller’s New York complement to his legendary Napa Valley restaurant, French Laundry.

“The secret to service is not servitude, but anticipating desire,” Damrosch learned. She was a novice when she scored a pre-opening interview with Chef Keller and landed a job as backserver, pouring water, serving bread, setting and clearing for each course, among other things. Soon she was on the fast track and in 2004 became Per Se’s first female captain, the person who greets diners, takes their orders, sells and serves the wine and presents the check at the end of the meal. Damrosch acknowledges that the delights she chronicles are not for the budget-conscious: Per Se’s tasting menus start at $250 per person, and at one point she mentions two brothers spending “their usual $20,000 on a few bottles.” In some justification of the steep cost, she notes that if four guests at one table each have different menus, this could mean 20 or so courses and close to 80 different dishes, and that Per Se’s menu and attention to detail have made it one of only five four-star restaurants in New York City. Mouthwatering descriptions of the exotic fare may persuade skeptics that it’s worth the money. Of the custard course, Damrosch writes, “My favorite, the deviled egg with a truffle ‘Pop-Tart,’ looked exactly like the picnic food and toaster treat except that the pastry was filled with a marmalade of Périgord truffles and drizzled with truffle frosting.” Other topics include the author’s romance with a sexy sommelier and the staff’s downtime activities: a late-night excursion to find the city’s best bone marrow, for instance, or a weekend spent at a Vermont dairy farm learning about cheese in order to better serve their customers.

Well-written and fascinating, though its appeal may be limited to the terminally food-obsessed.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-122814-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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