While some readers may view this account as too raw and self-obsessive, it stands as a vivid depiction of mental illness.

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QUITE MAD

AN AMERICAN PHARMA MEMOIR

A wrenching account of a difficult upbringing and a chaotic brain that will leave readers marveling at the author’s endurance.

Prairie Schooner assistant editor Montgomery (English/Bridgewater State Univ.; Leaving Tracks: A Prairie Guide, 2017, etc.) has tackled the subject of madness in poetry (Regenerate: Poems of Mad Women, 2017) and in her award-winning doctoral dissertation, which grew into this book. Portions of the book first appeared in the literary journals the Rumpus and the Normal School. The author offers a gripping picture of the real pain and suffering of someone diagnosed with chronic mental illness. Diagnosed with severe anxiety at an early age, Montgomery was serially medicated, or overmedicated, with Celexa, Xanax, Zoloft, and Buspirone; add to that some four years of talk therapy. Later, other diagnoses included PTSD and OCD. “The waiting game will continue for many years,” she writes, “as I bounce from medication to medication, searching for something that won’t injure my body so much, something that will let me off my knees.” The author’s memoir is rich with details about her troubled family, led by problematic parents who were quick to detect sprouting anxiety symptoms in their offspring and who, over the years, adopted multiple dysfunctional children. Whether by nature or nurture, Montgomery seems almost to have been doomed to an existence marked by mental illness. Her revelations about her own experiences lead to discussions of how thinking about mental illness has evolved. She offers a brief look at the expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some history of the treatment of females, once labeled with hysteria and thought to be suffering from wandering wombs, and a discussion of once-used asylums. The author is clearly concerned with how anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental disorders have been—and are currently—regarded in our culture.

While some readers may view this account as too raw and self-obsessive, it stands as a vivid depiction of mental illness.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8142-5486-8

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Mad Creek/Ohio State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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