The marriage candidly portrayed here, with all its joys and failures, misunderstandings and misery, provides ample fodder...

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A BOX OF DARKNESS

THE STORY OF A MARRIAGE

Bittersweet memoir of a highly stressed marriage that somehow endured for nearly half a century.

Freelance editor and writer Brady (A Yankee Christmas: Feasts, Treats, Crafts, and Traditions of Wintertime New England, 1992, etc.) is the widow of Upton Brady, for many years the editor in chief of the Atlantic Monthly Press. Her story of their marriage opens with the scattering of his ashes near Woods Hole, Mass., in 2008, and promptly reveals that Upton was sometimes a mean drunk. In chapters that shift back and forth between the present and the past, Brady tells the story of their relationship beginning in 1956, when she was a Boston debutante and he a Harvard undergraduate. Although his Irish Catholic background did not match her mother’s vision of a son-in-law, they were married in 1962 and swiftly produced four children. Marriage and fathering children, it seems, was viewed by Upton as a cure for homosexuality. It was not. Although he had sex with men, was a heavy drinker, was verbally and physically abusive and was financially unstable and secretive, Brady loved him and stuck with him, believing he loved her too. Her discovery, shortly after his death, of gay pornography hidden among his effects led her to question that belief. This memoir is her attempt to examine their past and to discover who her husband really was. It is clear that she adored him, saw him as brilliant and talented and for a long time blamed herself for his failings. Because she is looking back at her husband and their long marriage with present-day eyes, it is not always clear what she knew and what she refused to know when she was younger and living through some truly trying, eye-opening experiences. Her conclusion is that her beloved, deeply troubled husband lived two lives: the domestic world with her, and the gay world that he tried desperately to keep secret.

The marriage candidly portrayed here, with all its joys and failures, misunderstandings and misery, provides ample fodder for discussion in women’s book groups.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-65416-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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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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