An insightful read for single-by-choice mothers interested in alternative therapies.

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MOTHERHOOD REIMAGINED

A debut memoir traces one woman’s pregnancy quest.

Kowalski was accustomed to success: she was a corporate litigator by age 30. As a youngster, she wanted kids of her own but, she writes, “somewhere between my rocket-speed career and my jet-setting, single life, I’d completely lost my resolve to have children.” Shortly into her career, however, she was diagnosed with a repetitive strain injury (called thoracic outlet syndrome) and chronic fatigue, which caused her to leave her job and seek alternative therapies, including Feldenkrais and Qigong. Through these, she met Chris, a Qigong teacher and counselor, and reconsidered what she “wanted to do and be in this world.” A healer, she determined, but also maybe a mother. Thus began her convoluted path to pregnancy. “Meticulous” and “a little crazy when it comes to making decisions,” Kowalski wavered about whether motherhood was for her. She tried online dating: a date-to-mate strategy. She explored sperm donation. She took many fertility tests that showed time was running out. Still, she hesitated, went on retreats, and consulted Chris for guidance. Chris’ advice plays a pivotal role, both in Kowalski’s life and in her book. Through Qigong treatment, he knew (or helped her understand) what she truly wanted, the state of her body at any given time, the best sperm donor, whether to consider egg donation, how to handle her anger, and so on. While this spiritual angle on major life decisions is intriguing, Kowalski’s repeated turns to Chris, and the many quotations of his counsel, tend to discount her own story. But the more descriptive, chronological account of her journey to motherhood may indeed steer women in similar circumstances. Kowalski deftly outlines the processes of monitoring fertility, consulting numerous professionals, choosing and using donated sperm, finding an egg donor, and attempting an egg transfer in clear prose and extensive details. She also hints at the costs involved—all useful information. But while the author proclaims a “passion for women’s reproductive rights,” she does not extend her tale significantly beyond her own experience. Women with fewer resources (financial, professional, spiritual) may find her story misses the mark.

An insightful read for single-by-choice mothers interested in alternative therapies.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63152-272-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2017

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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