SCARLET RIBBONS

A PRIEST WITH AIDS

Successfully integrating her voices of loving sister and dispassionate reporter, the author, a journalist, tells the life story of her brother, Simon Bailey, a gay priest in the Church of England who died in 1995 of AIDS. Drawing from his journals and sermons, from interviews with parishioners, other family members, and friends, the author traces the rocky path her brother walked from his youthful awareness of sexual difference, to his conversion out of the austere Baptist Church in which he was raised into the more “esthetic and sensual” Church of England, to his ordination, years of ministry to Dinnington parish in Yorkshire, and his final physical decline under the tender watch and care of his devoted parishioners. Much of the drama of the story unfolds in the step-by-step process by which the priest admits friends, close parishioners, family, church hierarchy, and the press—in that order—to the knowledge of his illness, a sequence that moves the author frankly to confess how “immensely sad” it is that she, her siblings, and parents were not among the first to be trusted with the news. That unself-justifying candor is part of what makes Bailey the perfect memorialist of her brother. Though she joyfully communicates the high points of reactions to his illness—especially the unprecedented public support he received, as an AIDS-afflicted Anglican priest, to continue actively in his priestly office, as he wished, up until he died’she also admits to moral misgivings over the secrecy he kept for so long. Simon’s shortened life reminds Bailey of the dying Beth from Little Women; but his capacity to transform private suffering into eloquent and edifying sermons will suggest to many readers of Scarlet Ribbons another, more ambiguous literary portrait from Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter: the long-suffering minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. The ambiguities in Simon’s life that the author preserves in her memorial of him will deepen and extend the impression he leaves. (16 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-85242-521-0

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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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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