A solid exploration into the fine line between the faithful and the fraudulent in 20th-century Catholicism.




Biography of Padre Pio, a 20th-century Italian friar who claimed religious miracles, including stigmata.

Luzzatto (Modern History/Univ. of Turin, Italy; The Body of Il Duce: Mussolini’s Corpse and the Fortunes of Italy, 2005) recounts the little-known tale of the modest Capuchin monk who experienced a religious epiphany in September 1918 that spurred controversy and divided Catholics for decades. “I look at my hands, feet, and side and see they are wounded and blood is pouring out,” he reported. Padre Pio claimed his injuries were actually the mark of the stigmata, agitating not only his small mountain town, but the head of the church in Rome as well. Set against the backdrop of war-torn Italy, Luzzatto offers a rich story of faith versus science, in which Padre Pio’s claims of miraculous wonder were believed by the people but discounted by the pope. By 1945, Padre Pio received 45,000 letters per year, though his popularity made him a target. The Catholic Church was uncertain how to deal with the holy man, though “[b]etween 1918 and 1968, every pontiff tried, directly or indirectly, to put his stamp on Padre Pio.” On the church’s authority, Padre Pio underwent a battery of psychological tests, leading his examiner to conclude his subject of “infirm mind” and a “psychiatric hospital mystic.” Yet soon after, another examination concluded differently, offering a “vote of confidence for Padre Pio.” The mystery remained unresolved, though doubt began rising once more when it was discovered that Padre Pio often retained small amounts of carbolic acid in his cell—a chemical fully capable of burning the marks he claimed were God-given. The world watched as Rome struggled to decide whether they were debunking a myth or disregarding a miracle. Luzzatto hones in on the central question: “could a good Christian ever accept the existence of an alter Christus, a living Christ figure?” Padre Pio’s experiences would suggest not, at least in the view of the papacy.

A solid exploration into the fine line between the faithful and the fraudulent in 20th-century Catholicism.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8905-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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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.


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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