Well-paced, informative and seldom repetitive, Ryan’s story nearly ignites.

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WILDFIRE

MEMOIRES OF A WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER

In his thrilling debut memoir, Ryan remembers his time spent serving as a California smokejumper.

Smokejumpers have earned a reputation for being more than a little crazy. Jumping out of a plane and parachuting toward an unpredictable, potentially lethal forest fire with the objective of extinguishing the blaze—that might deter most rational men and women. Ryan was a member of the courageous minority who willingly accepted this terrifying task. A gripping scene opens the memoir: With the inferno surrounding them, the firefighters are ordered to deploy their “shake and bake” shelters, aluminum survival tents intended for extreme situations. The ambient heat is palpable as the tent is showered by firebrands, and the author, sensing his own death, begins to pray. This high level of intensity sets the tone for the entire memoir. Smokejumpers are a close-knit band, united as brothers and sisters in their perilous endeavor. The author describes the difficulties of entering this profession, the rigors of training and his acceptance into this elite brotherhood. Learning his skills in California, he goes on to parachute into wildfires all over the United States, including Alaska. The presence of mortal danger is always close: planes crash, parachutes fail, wildfires turn. The author vividly describes colliding in midair with another jumper, an incident that resulted in his falling 60 feet and fracturing his spine. Capturing the “can do” persistence of America’s heroes, the author’s recovery and return to work are inspirational, spurred on by his philosophical and spiritual perspective. The memoir is also a brutally honest account of failed relationships that break down, in part, due to the author’s dedication to an unpredictable, dangerous profession. Further detail regarding the strategy of wildfire fighting would make for a more well-rounded study. Nonetheless, with an appropriate no-nonsense laconicism, there are true moments of laughter and heartache among the remarkable everyday lives of America’s lesser-known heroes.

Well-paced, informative and seldom repetitive, Ryan’s story nearly ignites.

Pub Date: July 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1484024430

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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