“Bright though they are in color, blossoms fall,” Iyer hears schoolchildren singing. “Which of us escapes the world of...

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AUTUMN LIGHT

SEASON OF FIRE AND FAREWELLS

The acclaimed travel writer and journalist meditates on the impermanence of life.

Like many others, Iyer (The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, 2014, etc.) reveres the beauty and portent of autumn. Japan, he writes, wants the world to think of it as the land of cherry blossoms, “but it’s the reddening of the maple leaves under a blaze of ceramic-blue skies that is the place’s secret heart.” Iyer—who divides his time between California, where he cares for his mother, and Japan with his wife, Hiroko, and her two adult children from a previous marriage—writes that autumn “poses the question we all have to live with: How to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying.” The author chronicles how Hiroko’s nonagenarian father had recently died. Her mother, whose memory was failing, complained, “I have two children…and I have to live in a nursing home. Until I die.” The second child is Masahiro, who severed all contact with his family. Throughout the narrative, the author mixes musings on the ephemerality of existence with scenes of quotidian life, most notably his visits to the local ping-pong club for “maverick games on Saturday afternoons” with elderly club patrons with vivid memories of the war. Some readers may be put off by Iyer’s decision to render Hiroko’s English dialogue in fragments—e.g., “you remember last week, I go parent house little check my father thing?” Late in the book, he refers to her “homemade, ideogrammatic English,” but the rendering will still strike some as insensitive. Otherwise, this is a thoughtful work with many poignant moments, as when Iyer and Hiroko take her mother on a drive past Kyoto’s temples and, in a moment of clarity, she starts crying when she remembers visiting them with her husband.

“Bright though they are in color, blossoms fall,” Iyer hears schoolchildren singing. “Which of us escapes the world of change?” This moving work reinforces the importance of finding beauty before disaster strikes.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49393-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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