by Sarah Fawn Montgomery ‧ RELEASE DATE: N/A
Evocative essays that delve into the paradoxes of human life.
Awards & Accolades
An English professor blends autobiography with social critiques in this essay collection.
Montgomery’s father built fences for a living, spending his “days removing dirt, adding posts in such a way that erosion or strong wind won’t knock them down.” Indeed, despite her sometimes messy childhood, the author’s father served as the fence post of her life, whose presence represented strength and safety until he contracted cancer. And while she is now an accomplished author and assistant professor at Bridgewater State University, Montgomery still sees herself as a “child,” afraid of the dark future, searching “for anything that will keep me with Daddy longer.” While grief and the raw vulnerability of a daughter who realizes her once invincible father now “exists in darkness” lie at the emotional core of the book, they also set the stage for broader reflections about her childhood and American society and culture. The volume’s autobiographical passages are written in a nonlinear style that jump back and forth across decades and locations, presenting the author’s recollections of her childhood, young adulthood, and relationship with her father in vignettes. Interspersed throughout these snapshots is a biting commentary on contemporary America, as the encroaching darkness of her personal life coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic; ever increasing societal isolation and polarization; and environmental catastrophes spawned by climate change. An extended metaphor of buried treasures, which connects a childhood memory to how humans write their own personal histories, is particularly well executed. “We bury the things we believe will define us after death,” she notes, hoping someday someone will dig them up. “In this way, we write the histories that will prevail.” As the author of multiple books of poetry, Montgomery is a skilled writer whose prose is simultaneously beautiful and tragic, nostalgic and despondent. And while the specific stories are the author’s own, the book taps into universal themes of grappling with complex family dynamics, growing up, leaving and returning home, and confronting death. This is a brilliant, if rather eclectic, collection; readers will hope for a sequel.Evocative essays that delve into the paradoxes of human life.
Pub Date: N/A
Page Count: 192
Publisher: Split Lip Press
Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2022
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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by Barbra Streisand ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 7, 2023
What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
A gloriously massive memoir from a sui generis star.
When Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen published 500-page memoirs, that seemed long—but as we learned, they really did have that much to say. Streisand doubles the ante with 1,000 pages. In addition to chronicling her own life, the author offers fascinating lessons on acting, directing, film editing, sound mixing, lighting, and more, as revealed in detailed accounts of the making of each of her projects. As Stephen Sondheim commented about her, “It’s not just the gift, it’s the willingness to take infinite pains.” The pains really pay off. With every phase of her life, from childhood in Brooklyn to her 27-year-romance with current husband, James Brolin, Streisand throws everything she has—including her mother’s scrapbook and her own considerable talent as a writer—into developing the characters, settings, conversations, meals, clothes, and favorite colors and numbers of a passionately lived existence. In the process, she puts her unique stamp on coffee ice cream, egg rolls, dusty rose, pewter gray, the number 24, Donna Karan, Modigliani, and much more. Among the heroes are her father, who died when she was very young but nevertheless became an ongoing inspiration. The villains include her mother, whose coldness and jealousy were just as consistent. An armada of ex-boyfriends, colleagues, and collaborators come to life in a tone that captures the feel of Streisand’s spoken voice by way of Yiddishisms, parenthetical asides, and snappy second thoughts. The end is a little heavy on tributes, but you wouldn’t want to miss the dog cloning, the generous photo section, or this line, delivered in all seriousness: “Looking back, I feel as if I didn't fulfill my potential.”What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Page Count: 992
Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023
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