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


Page Count: 280

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2014

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 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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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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