A touching family account expressed in unadorned but emotionally arresting language.

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COLLATERAL DAMAGE

A debut memoir chronicles a woman’s struggle to make peace with her father’s death in World War II.

In 1945, Reynolds’ father was killed during the Battle of the Bulge when his jeep hit a land mine near Luxembourg while he was serving as a soldier in World War II. She remembers the dark day her mother received a telegram relating the grim news, and their shared inconsolableness, an episode poignantly related by the author. Reynolds’ mother was remarried in 1947 to a painter, Sam Joseph, and gradually the family was reconstituted to erase the painful remembrance of the author’s transformative loss. A photograph and the fatigue cap that her father gave her before he decamped for war suddenly disappeared from her room. Reynolds’ family stopped visiting her paternal grandparents, opting instead to spend time with Joseph’s parents. And then in 1951, when the author was 11 years old, her family moved from its Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan to a house in the suburbs of Connecticut. A Jew accustomed to being surrounded by others of her faith, Reynolds learned to become an outlier, often the target of malicious taunts by her Christian peers. But she was eventually reunited with her father’s side of the family when she met Anna Hoech, who had kept in touch with those relatives and had worked as a nanny for the younger siblings of Reynolds’ mother. The author became close friends with her Aunt Greta, who escaped Nazi-occupied France, and was inspired to learn as much as she could about her father and his family’s history. In 1999, married and living in Florida, she joined the American War Orphans Network, an organization dedicated to supporting others who have experienced similar losses. Reynolds writes in the sparest prose, unembellished by literary invention and almost childlike, which imbues it with a kind of moral power (“Greta…became my favorite aunt. We even looked alike—the same coloring, similar build, and kindred smiles. The connection between us was instantaneous. I knew at once that she would become one of the most important people in my life”). The memoir, featuring old black-and-white photographs, meanders shiftlessly sometimes, wandering too far from the story’s main themes. But the author’s profound sense of abandonment is affectingly portrayed as well as the solace she found in the investigation of her father’s lineage.

A touching family account expressed in unadorned but emotionally arresting language.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4808-4493-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

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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 eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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