A master journalistic storyteller tells his family’s own story.

LIFE, ANIMATED

A STORY OF SIDEKICKS, HEROES, AND AUTISM

A deeply felt, movingly written account of raising an autistic son.

As a best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Suskind has earned his renown with deeply reported, big-picture stories of domestic policies (Confidence Men, 2011) and international affairs (The Way of the World, 2008). His latest is more tightly focused and intimate in tone, as it deals with two decades of struggles and triumphs of a family trying to do whatever is best for their younger son, Owen, who has somehow been able to make emotional connections through Disney movies that so many with autism never can. The investigative reporter in Suskind might be a little suspicious of a book that depends so heavily on Disney products, and includes visits with its actors and animators and is published through a Disney imprint, even as he insists that Disney “agreed to exert no influence whatsoever over the content of this book.” It details the experience of having a seemingly normal toddler who “vanished” into what was subsequently diagnosed as autism. Early on, they figure, “[i]t’s just a matter of reaching him, of figuring out what caused this storm to envelop him, so we can clear away the clouds and let the light back in.” Nothing was that simple, of course, as frustration at the inadequacies of educational options and conflicting therapeutic strategies, at expenses that run toward $100,000 per year, set in. Disney proved to be the way in, as Owen deeply identified with the sidekicks and misfits of the videos he watched repeatedly, memorized whole scripts and began drawing; he now wants to become an animator. Owen’s obsession has aided his emotional and intellectual development, as he made friends, graduated from high school and enjoyed his first kiss as much as the next romantic teenager. The Disney effect may be distinctive to this experience, but the family dynamic should resonate with a much wider readership.

A master journalistic storyteller tells his family’s own story.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8036-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Kingswell/Disney Book Group

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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