Wheeler has set a high standard for Cherry-Garrard biographies to come, as surely they will. (16-page photo insert)

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CHERRY

A LIFE OF APSLEY CHERRY-GARRARD

A nimble and discerning biography of an aristocratic adventurer who wrote one of the finest books on polar exploration.

Considering the adoration in which he is held in polar circles, it comes as a shock to learn that Wheeler’s is the first biography of Cherry-Garrard. The explorer’s Worst Journey in the World, chronicling his three years in the Antarctic with Robert Falcon Scott, is routinely cited as a peerless example of adventure-writing. And Wheeler (Terra Incognita, not reviewed, etc.) does a remarkable job in coaxing from scant primary source materials a sense of the man, presenting a personality to go with Cherry-Garrard’s detached, ironic voice. He was privileged, as someone with a name like that must be, reared on great English estates with rooks and gardeners and manor houses old enough to have medieval architectural remnants. Though he was never comfortable with the swells and the bloods, he harbored a respect for tradition and ritual, and his “ambition, single-mindedness, and self-reliance” led him into the arms of Robert F. Scott and the push to the South Pole, with its disastrous consequences, for which Cherry-Garrard assumed his own share of the responsibility. Building on the reminiscences of Cherry-Garrard’s widow, Wheeler fashions a convincing portrait of a man who rued the changes in the pastoral landscape and the position of the gentry and was deeply depressed by his many illnesses and the dreadful consequences of war, economic depression, then more war—all shaping a life that feels an extended exercise in “elegiac melancholy.” Though she doesn’t try to gloss the silences in the historic record, the author’s image of Cherry-Garrard isn’t fragmentary, but rather crazed, like an old mirror or the polar ice.

Wheeler has set a high standard for Cherry-Garrard biographies to come, as surely they will. (16-page photo insert)

Pub Date: April 23, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-50328-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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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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