An informative book that leaves the author exposed throughout as the center of attention, as opposed to God.

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COSTLY GRACE

AN EVANGELICAL MINISTER’S REDISCOVERY OF FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE

Christian activist and minister Schenck provides a provocative autobiography centered on the evolution of his life as a person of faith.

Born into a nominally Jewish family, the author and his identical twin brother, Paul, shocked their parents by converting to Christianity as teenagers and, soon thereafter, jumping headlong into evangelical ministry. While still rather young, the brothers moved wholeheartedly into the nascent anti-abortion movement of the late 1980s. From the rise of Operation Rescue, Schenck describes in page-turning detail his life at the heart of the abortion controversy. The author seems to have been at almost every important event and turning point as evangelical Christianity reached its zenith of political influence in the George W. Bush years—and as it began a slide into confusion, infighting, and muddled morality over the past decade. Having set himself up in Washington, D.C., targeting politicians and others of influence, Schenck became a well-known face of the religious right, often conferring with members of Congress and being interviewed by the press. But years of fame, travel, legal troubles, and near zealotry took their toll on the author and his family. Early in the Barack Obama era, an encounter with the works of German writer Dietrich Bonhoeffer caused Schenck to re-evaluate his ministry and his priorities, including his involvement with “the politicized religion that had infected me and millions of others back in the eighties, when American evangelicals entered into their Faustian pact with Ronald Reagan’s party.” The author’s seemingly sudden change from a card-carrying fundamentalist to a moderate on almost all controversial issues may be difficult to grasp, but some readers may be most startled by what Schenck put his wife and children through during three decades of unabated activism.

An informative book that leaves the author exposed throughout as the center of attention, as opposed to God.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268793-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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 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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