More useful to would-be pastors than to general readers, but a worthy addition to the literature.

OPEN SECRETS

A preacher’s notes on matters of the heart and spirit.

Lischer (Divinity/Duke Univ.; The Preacher King, 1995) candidly admits that after his stellar performance at a Lutheran seminary, where he excelled in the arcana of ancient Greek and hermeneutics, he expected to be rewarded with “a distinguished career . . . a cutting-edge pastoral appointment in a socially conscious but not unaffluent congregation, followed by a professorship in our denomination’s flagship seminary, capped off by the presidency of the seminary and—why not?—of the whole church body.” Instead, in the early 1970s, he found himself assigned to a struggling, “unstrategic” little church in the cornfields of southern Illinois, its pews filled with beefy-handed farmers, their suspicious wives, and sullen children. He was not especially effective, he admits, at reaching his congregation with sermons full of allusions to Camus, Joyce, and Heidegger, though his charges were for the most part far too polite to tell him so. (A few, however, were openly contemptuous, and they make an interesting, rowdy chorus throughout the book.) Pastoring, preaching, and counseling through the years of Vietnam, Watergate, open marriage, and drugs, Lischer struggled to meet his congregation’s needs and to batten down his pride, which “weighted me down from my very first sighting of the church, impeded all my relationships with my parishioners, and never let me run with joy the race I might have run.” In the end, he came close to succeeding, though his next congregation (suburbanites and not farmers) benefited most from the lessons he learned. Lischer occasionally steals a note from Garrison Keillor (“Among Lutherans, ecstasy may take the form of a slight twitch of the eyebrow or the pursing of lips in order to suppress a smile”) but in general the voice is his own, and his storytelling is quite effective.

More useful to would-be pastors than to general readers, but a worthy addition to the literature.

Pub Date: May 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-50217-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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