A stirring memoir that beautifully and humorously captures the pain of unresolved loss.

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A WOMAN'S SEARCH FOR TRUTH AND BURIED TREASURE

A writer recounts her playful search for buried treasure and a more serious hunt for some emotional meaning that she struggles to define. 

At the age of 46, debut author Miller had what most would consider an enviable life: a vibrant career as a writer and “part-time college English teacher,” a loving husband, and “two madcap kids,” not to mention no shortage of friends. But she still felt profoundly discontent, as if she was “made of longing”: What is missing that will make me feel whole, and why, when I’m teetering on the brink of fifty, can I still not find it? She channeled her questing energy into a gamesome “armchair treasure hunt,” an organized competition in which the contestants interpreted clues in order to track down $10,000 in coins buried somewhere in New York City. She became increasingly obsessed with the search and developed an unhealthy crush on her treasure hunt partner, David, who stimulated “unbidden longing” in her. She spent so much time driving back and forth between her home in Boston and New York, her marriage to her husband, Mark, began to suffer. When pressed why precisely she felt such an urgent compulsion to find the treasure, she was exasperatingly incapable of articulating an answer. The author poignantly documents, in sometimes-painful vignettes of retrospection, the dysfunctional childhood that surely was the principal source of her midlife crisis. Miller recounts that she grew up in an emotionally arid home: Her mother was coldly angry and her father, distant and uncommunicative at best and mercurially violent on his worst days. Her prose is both playfully anecdotal and openhandedly confessional—the author achieves an impressive balance between lighthearted banter and heartache. The chief preoccupation of the remembrance—the author’s amorphous but devastating dissatisfaction at approaching 50—is not exactly new literary ground, and the symbolism of the treasure hunt, if that search weren’t real, would read as a clumsily obvious metaphor. But her writing style is so unpretentiously candid and her childhood so grimly remarkable that readers are unlikely to mind. This is a moving recollection brimming with emotional insights. 

A stirring memoir that beautifully and humorously captures the pain of unresolved loss. 

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-941932-12-4

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Brown Paper Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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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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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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