There were plenty of hand-scrawled signs in public places saying, "Kilroy was here." He probably was, and he certainly made...

HOBO

A DEPRESSION ODYSSEY

Reminiscing about a teenage hobo adventure, former newsman O'Malley describes what happens when a young man from Montana rides the rails and looks for work during the Great Depression.

The narrative is modeled on the old Saturday Evening Post, loaded with action-packed dramatic scenes and propulsive energy. After the violent opening—in which our hero, Richard Maloney (called "Slim") is beaten up by a railroad "yard bull" in charge of keeping freeloaders off the trains, and subsequently finds company and consolation by the fireside of friendly hobos—O'Malley embarks full-steam-ahead on a narrative journey that makes real the plight of thousands of unemployed and desperate people. Not all those whom Slim meets are saints—some beat him up and rob him blind; others, such as an out-of-work railroad porter, urge him to commit crime. He resists, finding instead backbreaking work digging potatoes (25 cents a day, plus all the potatoes he can eat, plus shelter in a barn). Trips to Los Angeles, the Mojave desert and beyond begin to blur in the reader's mind as he describes a closely focused life in strict survival mode. He thinks only about where he can get another meal, whether the railroad "bull" will catch him, or whether the next guy will be a crazed murderer (he meets several while riding the rails). O'Malley packs the story with lively anecdotes, such as playing the only piano tune he knows for poor moonshine-makers desperate for dance, or working as a fake "townie" who dares to challenge the carnival champ—a brain-damaged fellow known as "Battler"—for $2 a fight. After landing unjustly in jail for vagrancy, he witnesses a suicide and an execution during his 90 days behind bars. He also begins to recognize his own imperfections—though he hadn't realized it before, he was "white proud and that was no damn good." After a year and a half on the road he returns home a somewhat broken—but much wiser—man, and still only 19 years old. The voice drifting from the '30s is authentic, but lacking in a suspenseful dramatic thread to keep the pages turning. Nonetheless, he illuminates those trying times with heartfelt emotion and genuine humanity.

There were plenty of hand-scrawled signs in public places saying, "Kilroy was here." He probably was, and he certainly made his mark.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-4033-5448-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2011

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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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