This book is more of a monochromatic mural than a multicolored tapestry, but it still captures the effects of social change...

Mo, Me and America: The Vanishing Rural Community

Turk travels the back roads of 36 states in search of “the living story of rural America.”

The author, a former educational leadership professor at Wichita State University, follows in the footsteps of such luminaries as Charles Kuralt and William Least Heat-Moon in this sometimes-engaging, if repetitive, account of 16 months of travels around the back roads of America with Mo, his golden retriever. He comes from a farming family, and he set out to chronicle “the living story of rural America” by interviewing people he encountered on the road. “If our family history is connected by stories,” then the “history of rural America is linked by the stories of their residents,” he writes. Rural America, of course, has been undergoing profound social and economic change, as Turk notes—“Today, three out four rural counties no longer depend on agriculture as their primary economic base”—and his stories of more than 100 people provide a window into that transformation. “American Falls is dying off,” lamented a resident of that small, southeast Idaho town, while an interviewee in Osage, Missouri, said that the only businesses left in town were mostly “antique stores....We don’t have anything anymore.” In Buena Vista, Virginia, an old-timer said that the loss of businesses and other changes “have made it difficult to promote our legacy as an old town of the South.” Even so, Turk doesn’t excessively dwell on the negative, as he also extols the community spirit of small-town America and uncovers such success stories as Las Vegas, New Mexico, a once “semi-segregated” community where a Hispanic resident told him, “I never thought forty years ago [that] an Anglo would be asking me my opinion on anything.” He also enlivens the text with the imaginary musings of his dog, Mo, such as, “I am so bored that I do not even want to ask for a dawg bone.” Readers, though, may experience a similar emotion, as the author doesn’t have the prose skills to really bring characters he meets to life, resulting in an often monotonous portrait of rural America. However, he has, at the very least, provided a worthwhile contribution to making that part of America “recognizable to future generations.”

This book is more of a monochromatic mural than a multicolored tapestry, but it still captures the effects of social change on rural communities.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear

Review Posted Online: May 9, 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 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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