A moving, spiritual account of a search for meaning through meditation.

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Dear Prudence

THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG

A woman depicted in one of the Beatles’ most famous songs tells her story.

Bruns played a small but significant part in the history of the Fab Four: she, along with her sister, the actress Mia Farrow, and the Beatles, went to India in 1968 to study meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Her dedicated attention to meditation for long periods inspired John Lennon to write “Dear Prudence,” which appeared on the Beatles’ 1968 self-titled record. However, most people know little else about Bruns, a Transcendental Meditation teacher based in Florida, and this debut memoir attempts to change that. As the daughter of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan, she grew up in a life of privilege, including servants, private schools, and trips abroad. A common thread that runs through her memoir, though, is her search for something spiritual and meaningful, going all the way back to Catholic school. She experienced personal tragedies, including the untimely deaths of her brother and father, and lived through rebellious teenage years, which included drinking and bouts of depression. A harrowing experience with LSD (“it felt as if my body was gone and I was left in hell for all eternity”) led her to practice meditation, and she describes its transformative effects almost poetically: “Although subtle, a priority shift had quietly taken place. Time took on new meaning, suddenly becoming far more precious to me—I couldn’t waste it anymore. I felt compelled to use it much more wisely.” The final chapters center on her meeting the maharishi and her experiences with the members of the Beatles, particularly Lennon and George Harrison. She was more interested in meditation during her stay than being in the musicians’ company, although she found them to be kindred spirits: “I related to George and benefited from his perspective through transference.” What makes this book stand out is the fact that it’s not a typical, dishy celebrity tell-all, although there are some fascinating stories about her Hollywood upbringing and her time with the Beatles (such as when Lennon and Harrison entered her room performing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”). It’s a portrait of a young woman trying to center her life amid personal pain and how she found herself. Overall, it’s a rather life-affirming tale from someone who’s more than just a footnote in pop-music history.

A moving, spiritual account of a search for meaning through meditation.

Pub Date: June 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5030-2988-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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