A tender evocation of fear, hope, and love.

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SAVING CHARLOTTE

A MOTHER AND THE POWER OF INTUITION

A mother recounts a year in her family’s life as they confront their newborn’s devastating diagnosis.

In 2000, Dutch novelists de Jong’s third child was born with a strange bump on her back. A skin biopsy revealed that the baby had congenital myeloid leukemia, an exceedingly rare disease for which there was no standard treatment protocol. Her sympathetic pediatric oncologist could offer only chemotherapy but cautioned that it was so harsh that it might cause blindness, infertility, or death. Stunned, de Jong and her husband, Robbert, decided to forgo that option. The author quietly conveys the couple’s sense of desperation as they returned to their home in a seedy section of Amsterdam to watch and wait. She took a leave from her job to care for her infant and two young sons, determined to nourish, protect, and love the baby for whatever time she had left. At the hospital for her daughter’s bone-marrow biopsy and at weekly visits to the oncologist, de Jong observed the terrifying world of childhood cancer: pale, skinny children weakened by chemotherapy, hollow-eyed parents frustrated by their powerlessness. She felt as if she had entered a “portal of death.” At home, they were supported by a motley assortment of neighbors: a friendly young prostitute working out of a brothel across the street; an eccentric man living with his aging mother; another man who grew sicker each day. All offered sympathy and prayers. In contrast, people she hardly knew, impelled by “morbid curiosity disguised as empathy,” intruded with shocking, sometimes bizarre, remarks. After one disturbing visit, de Jong dug “a deep moat around our house” and “pulled up the drawbridge.” Since watching and waiting do not in themselves yield a lively narrative, de Jong shares details of family outings, childhood memories, and surreal dreams. In one, she is running home with her children on streets made of quicksand. Happily, readers know from the start that this story ends well.

A tender evocation of fear, hope, and love.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-60915-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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