The rare family scrapbook that isn’t boring to the outsider.

PASSAGE

A mother’s collected memories reveal her remarkable life in this work of nonfiction.

Powers (Organic for Health, 2007) brought home her moribund mother Grace to spend her last living days surrounded by the family she adored. Grace had led a long, full life, but her children could not possibly have imagined just how full until after she passes away, and Powers discovered boxes full of her mother’s carefully recorded memories that told the unexpectedly compelling story of Grace’s secret life. While the candid family photographs, legal documents and authentic newspaper clippings help illuminate the reality behind Powers’ sentimental portrait of her mother, “All else,” Powers writes in the foreword, “is as close to true accounts as I could make them.” That leaves Powers’ few elegant pages of introductory prose and, more compellingly, her mother’s journal—which constitutes the bulk of the short book—open to questions of verisimilitude. So be it; despite the liberties Powers may have taken, it’s an enthralling read. Correspondence with a church reveals Grace was adopted at a young age, never able to discover the identity of her biological parents. After the death of her adoptive mother and abuse at the hands of her adoptive stepmother, Grace managed to grow into a sensible, loving wife and mother in a small Ohio town. She and her husband strove for an honest living in the wake of the Great Depression until witnessing a neighbor’s gruesome murder cracked any sense of normalcy. And then came war. Patriotism runs deep throughout Grace’s journal; reprinted letters from World War II offer a frank depiction of life during wartime, both for the soldiers facing combat and for civilians, like Grace, at home sacrificing for their country. Grace’s patriotic sacrifice launches the book’s most stunning revelation—she infiltrated Cold War communist factions as an undercover spy for the FBI. Often the journal entries, particularly those containing the more incredible admissions, read like summaries of profound events rather than a dutiful narration, as if the journal—either because of Grace as writer or Powers as editor—was meant only as an introduction to the deeper story. Perhaps Grace intended to tell her daughter the story herself one day, with the detail it deserves. Now this book will suffice.

The rare family scrapbook that isn’t boring to the outsider.

Pub Date: March 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456729561

Page Count: 140

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

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

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 17

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more