Peeking through a mundane portrait of an ill-suited couple is a fascinating story about a childhood spent in an exotic land...



In this debut memoir, South African-born White condenses her story of marital strife in the book’s subtitle—“Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog.”

White was born and spent her childhood in Southern Africa during apartheid. As the eldest child of English parents, she lived in countries now known as Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. She contrasts the English with Afrikaaners, who spoke Afrikaans and were adherents of the restrictive Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church. Her parents were more open-minded, however, and while living in homes supplied by the mining company who employed her father, she spent happy times as an only child in the care of servants while eating fried worms and playing alongside baboons. When her brother was born with severe disabilities, the family dynamics deteriorated through her mother’s alcoholism and undiagnosed emotional problems along with her carefree father’s infidelities. Although eager to leave Africa as a young bride and mother, she always felt residual guilt about shirking her responsibilities as her brother’s protector. His declining health was the main impetus for her to visit Africa on one of her rare trips. But these facts are not laid out chronologically. The memoir is also an account of the dissolution of her second marriage, a 25-year adventure with Larry, an emotionally stunted surfer with a cruel streak. He periodically vanishes and had long before abdicated his responsibilities as a parent to his three daughters from his first marriage. White’s and his primary connection is their mutual adoration of their two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, one of whom suffers from a serious kidney disease requiring constant care. The strength of the book is the author’s insight about life in Africa. She describes how the American nuns in her primary school played softball and told their “colonial” students that “we were worse than the natives in the villages; they were to be pitied, whereas we were a bunch of ignorant white interlopers.” These scenes are vivid and engaging, as contrasted with too much information about the intimate activities of a couple clearly headed for divorce.

Peeking through a mundane portrait of an ill-suited couple is a fascinating story about a childhood spent in an exotic land and a family life full of secrets.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1938314506

Page Count: 280

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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

Did you like this book?

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


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?