A contemplative, lyrical, splendid collection.

READ REVIEW

STUDY IN PERFECT

Essays and musings considering the elusive and evocative idea of perfection.

In these tender, elegant essays, poet and Sarabande Books president Gorham (Bad Daughter, 2011, etc.) explores cultural, personal and philosophical meanings of the “slippery term” perfect. Ten short pieces consider such topics as “Perfect Tea” (Twinings Irish Breakfast, prepared in a microwave), “Perfect Sleep” (morphine-induced, following a C-section) and “Perfect Conversation” (fulfilling the definition of perfection as “That which has attained its purpose”): “I love you,” “I love you too.” A dozen longer essays elaborate on “the many permutations of this most hermetic and exalted concept” in the author’s life. In “Moving Horizontal,” a four-story Victorian, which had served the family perfectly as Gorham’s children grew up, suddenly feels claustrophobic; more perfect for a couple’s empty nest is an open-plan modern house, filled not with souvenirs but with light. “The Changeling” is Gorham’s sister, born microcephalic, who becomes the center of the family’s life: Her mother embraced her role as an activist for the handicapped; her father sold lemonade to raise funds; a sister volunteered at state institutions. “Beckie was our wabi,” writes the author, “the distinctive flaw that made our family an exquisite paragon. This Japanese concept, with its sister sabi, guides us with three important principles: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” Gorham’s marriage surely was not perfect: “A Drinker’s Guide to The Cat in the Hat” juxtaposes the chaos wrought by Dr. Seuss’ wily protagonist with the impact of her husband’s alcoholism on the family. Wary after he underwent treatment, the author likens the possibility of his relapse to the cat, looming menacingly outside the family’s windows, “Raring to go and ready for FUN.” Fear during a daughter’s life-threatening illness, grief over her mother’s death, nostalgia for family gatherings in summers past: All lead Gorham to consider how perfection is interlaced with pain, desire and even sin.

A contemplative, lyrical, splendid collection.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8203-4712-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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

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.

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