But Then My Voice Changed

FROM FUNDAMENTALIST TO NONBELIEVER: ONE MAN'S STORY

A debut “spiritual memoir” recounts a man’s journey from Christian belief to a moderate atheism.

After he turned 12, Bales moved to a small town in Kansas, his early life dominated by his involvement in a Methodist church. While he was unreservedly devoted to his religious practice, even at a young age he was troubled by questions about his faith that he could not answer and by the variety of mutually exclusive claims to the true Word of God (there were eight different congregations in his town). Over time, those questions deepened into ones marked by a sense of profound philosophical urgency, and his growing skepticism erupted into a full crisis of faith while in college. There, Bales encountered philosophy, and the discipline’s incessant quest for knowledge provided a stark contrast to his experience with his church’s elders, who railed against a caricatured version of science and dogmatically foreclosed a spirit of inquiry. He not only realized that many of the philosophical arguments in support of the existence of God were, at the very least, debatable, but that there was, within the Christian tradition, a rich history of intellectual inquiry. Bales attributes the perpetuation of closed-mindedness in religion to a kind of willful insularity—it’s much easier to find solace in ossified doctrine when one avoids exposure to a diversity of opinion. The author was stirred by what he read in college but also by those he met: a wide spectrum of people with a wealth of varying experiences and beliefs. Bales not only started to change his mind, but began to alter the way he thought as well (“It began to dawn on me that not only was I being introduced to a world of new ideas and experiences, I was also hearing a new approach to dealing with competing beliefs”). The author does a marvelous job accessibly discussing complex philosophical ideas and texts. Also, he carefully distinguishes his approach from the shriller versions of atheism today, allowing for the possibility of a rational defense of faith and crediting religion with great cultural achievements (“I love much of the art of the Renaissance and Baroque periods—art created, at least ostensibly, for the glory of God”). He avoids political partisanship, drawing only limited political conclusions toward the very end of the book. A philosophically balanced atheism presented in the form of intellectual autobiography.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4582-0582-7

Page Count: 296

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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

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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