An intriguing, if disjointed, guide to Ghana and to one man’s life of faith.

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Life Between Here and There

A memoir of an African childhood, a tourist guide to Ghana, and an inspirational Adventist tract combine in Kwarteng’s debut work of nonfiction, written with MacLaren (Faith into Miracles, 2012).

In his youth, Kwarteng lived in conditions that he modestly calls “very primitive by western standards,” in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Although he dreamed of being a postal worker, his home “was not a country where you could apply for a job, pass a test, and be accepted.” The local government, he says, provided no aid and little guidance for schoolchildren—a point for which he chides them repeatedly. His parents immigrated to America in 1996 and, years later, he was able to join them. There, he says, he was aided by his strong faith in God in achieving his dream: he became a worker for the U.S. Postal Service. “Without God,” he frequently tells readers, “there is nothing you can do on this earth.” This story of the author’s childhood in Ghana also serves as a travel manual and a grab-bag of photographs, philosophical reflections, and parables. The book’s structure, though, is curious: chapters begin in autobiography but turn into collections of self-described “random ideas.” Sometimes they’re inspirational perorations on the faith of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (of which Kwarteng is a member), but most often, he offers a travel guide to modern Ghana, briefly addressing such subtopics as Ghanaian medical care, the wisdom of retiring to that country, local currencies, and so on. The book is credited to two authors, but the text doesn’t always clarify who’s speaking. It always uses a first-person perspective, but sometimes it refers to Kwarteng in the third person. Also, the mother of Kwarteng’s children is named “Gloria” in the text, but he thanks “Maybell for giving birth to my lovely children” in the acknowledgements. Still, much of the information here is worth knowing, and Kwarteng is surely to be commended on a life well-lived and for having the courage to follow his dreams.

An intriguing, if disjointed, guide to Ghana and to one man’s life of faith. 

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5236-9841-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2016

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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