Carson partisans may find this memoir self-serving (what memoir isn’t?), but most readers will be captivated by this...

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JOHNNY CARSON

The King of Late Night’s lawyer, confidant, tennis partner and butt of his “Bombastic Bushkin” gags appraises their 18-year relationship.

Mainly due to the often bitter jokes he began making about marriage, often at his own expense, around the time of his expensive divorce from his third wife in the early 1980s, Johnny Carson (1925–2005) is known for his marital troubles. Though the late-night host is also known for his reclusiveness from the Hollywood scene—a reputation Bushkin demonstrates was not entirely warranted—most casual observers may not know that Carson had difficulty with all sorts of relationships, beginning with his praise-stingy mother Ruth, whose approval Carson vainly sought until her death, and continuing with his three sons (Carson admitted to being a poor, distant father). Fresh out of Vanderbilt Law School at 23, Bushkin began working for Carson in 1970 and had, arguably, the closest and sturdiest relationship with Carson of the entertainer’s entire life until its acrimonious end in 1988 (“Johnny terminated our relationship in a mere three-minute conversation….There was no final act”). The secret to his success? At the expense of his own marriage and relationships with his children, Bushkin made it his career to keep Carson happy at all hours of the day and night. This might mean getting him a contract with NBC that made him the highest-paid entertainer in the world. It could also mean breaking and entering into Carson’s second wife’s adulterous “love nest” to gather evidence for divorce, listening to a drunken Caron’s self-psychoanalysis at an after-hours watering hole, disappearing discreetly when one of the boss’s many voluptuous playmates appeared, or stepping between Carson and people he wanted to hit or who wanted to hit him.

Carson partisans may find this memoir self-serving (what memoir isn’t?), but most readers will be captivated by this high-definition, off-camera, extreme close-up view of the enigmatic entertainer.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-544-21762-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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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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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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