An honest depiction of one woman’s midlife trials.



Arnell, an assistant professor at the Parsons School of Design, recounts a midlife crisis and her journey toward healing in her debut memoir.

The author opens her memoir in New York City in 2015 with an account of waking up horribly hungover and miserable the day after a New Year’s Eve party, with a black eye and blistered skin.She then details what drove her to that state and how she began to doubt her own value as her ad agency business eroded and she dealt with her children leaving home: “I was jobless, directionless, divorced, single, middle-aged, and the last of my three children had recently moved out for college.” Readers see her interactions with others who witnessed her downfall; one acquaintance commented, “My, how the mighty have fallen,” and she recounts how that phrase began to weigh heavily on her. However, she also points out the positive impact of having a support system when one is at their lowest point. In her case, that system consisted of her children, and she reveals how, even as they helped her, she felt guilt about depending on them. The author’s story of her downward spiral and her unwillingness to sugarcoat her feelings for readers make for a difficult read. However, many readers, and especially those who’ve experienced depression, will find that it hits home. Spirituality plays a big role in Arnell’s approach to healing; at a key point in her life, she met two sister missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and she notes her ensuing feeling that she should go to church: “Maybe Jesus will save me. Someone has to, for fuck’s sake.” Many other crisis memoirs focus on how their subjects took control and reshaped their lives, but Arnell’s unusually concentrates on the concept of being saved by others. Although her approach to healing isn’t straightforward, readers are able to see Arnell’s habit-building process, which leaves one with a sense of hope for her eventual healing. Over the course of this memoir, her honesty allows readers to acknowledge that growth is not linear—and that’s OK.

An honest depiction of one woman’s midlife trials.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64-293926-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Savio Republic

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.


Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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