Dramatic, keenly observed memoir of familial entropy set against the urban “bad old days.”

READ REVIEW

CRIMINALS

MY FAMILY'S LIFE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE LAW

The barbed tale of a writer’s beginnings, embarrassed yet fascinated by melodramatic, bohemian attorney parents.

Novelist Siegel (All Will Be Revealed, 2007, etc.) dramatizes a surreal upbringing fraught with deception. His mother pushed him toward art and culture, while his father sank into malfeasance. “We were the kind of family that ate out a lot, because home was too rancorous and depressing, and we tended to be a little nicer to each other in public,” he writes. The author’s obese, grandiose father was jailed for too-close involvement with his clients, including counterculture radicals, drug dealers, and the Hells Angels. “In this atmosphere,” he writes, “we could be the normal ones, the representatives of middle-class decency.” After prison, his father rebuilt his practice, but with reduced reputation and income. When one client gave him illicit cash with which to flee the country, he squandered it on junk food and fancy clothes. “I’m not sure why he decided to stay; it’s very possible that he was simply too broken to leave,” writes Siegel. The family’s chaotic domestic life took strange turns, including the adoption of an abused boy to whom, against the author’s expectations, his parents were devoted: “We liked seeing ourselves as the family in charge of the orphanage, full of beautiful waifs.” Still, Siegel’s father continued to neglect his health and responsibilities, and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s long after his behavior became erratic. Breaking away, the author became consumed with Asian culture, living in Japan while laboring over a novel about his father’s crimes, unable to find an authentic voice. Siegel displays his strengths in this memoir: lean, acute prose and sharply recalled environmental details of New York City in the 1970s and ’80s. He examines the familial ties that bind with love and exasperation, and his portrait of his family’s self-destructive contradictions is probing and memorable. The sections focused on his own intellectual growth can seem comparatively meandering and repetitive.

Dramatic, keenly observed memoir of familial entropy set against the urban “bad old days.”

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-037-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more