Schuman’s droll, self-deprecating, wild life (so far) will find particular appeal with readers who enjoy memoirs that don’t...



The candid adventures of a plucky, German-obsessed American student.

Slate columnist Schuman’s youth in the 1990s plays out through the nine chapters of her hilarious memoir, her first book. The author titles each chapter with a relevant German word, reflecting a mood or event in her self-discovery and her vivid love for German culture, including an enduring, lifelong affinity for Franz Kafka—who, she notes, wasn’t German. During her senior year in high school, this self-proclaimed “nonpracticing half-Jew from Oregon” spent her time poring over SAT practice tests and nurturing a fawning obsession with Dylan, a handsome, “so brilliant and so pained” geek who found Schuman’s brainy awkwardness intellectually stimulating. But his college dreams and personal goals stagnated any progression in their relationship. The author plodded on at college as a German major and then fully immersed herself in the culture, grammar, and history of life abroad. A culture clash ensued immediately as her host family found Schuman’s new “postgrunge aesthetic” quite different from her introductory photograph. Surviving on her own with a newfound independence breathed new life into her travels, and she moved into a loft residence in Berlin as a vegetarian and “moderate smoker.” Highlights include a mishap involving the recovery of her lost passport, pithy social observations, and epiphanies about how hypocritical Germanic culture can be. “They will think nothing of telling you that you have gained weight,” she writes, “but in other situations, they have ironclad laws of politeness.” The author’s comparison of Prague’s post–Cold War metamorphosis to Gregor Samsa’s own transformation is creatively descriptive, as is her account of her anxiety at being perceived as having Imposter Syndrome while at graduate school in Southern California. Built on her inner angst and painstaking quest for self-discovery throughout her burgeoning adulthood, Schuman’s memoir is a comedic patchwork of quirky anecdotes written in smooth, sometimes-cocky prose, liberally sprinkled with free-flowing expletives and consistent sincerity.

Schuman’s droll, self-deprecating, wild life (so far) will find particular appeal with readers who enjoy memoirs that don’t take themselves too seriously.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-07757-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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