Readers will find both governor and homesteader sturdy pandemic companions.

How an unusual correspondence buoyed two Maine women through the uncertainty of the first several months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At first glance, the women couldn’t have been much more different. Ashirah Knapp was a homesteader living off the grid in a tiny town situated literally at the end of the road; Janet Mills was in the middle of her first term as Maine’s first woman governor. But the women share a deep humanism, and the connection New Hampshire–based journalist Mullen teases out of the former’s letters and the latter’s journal entries and public addresses provides a neat structure for the narrative. Observing the angry resistance to the Democratic governor’s pandemic restrictions, starting in May 2020, Knapp took it upon herself to write weekly letters to Mills to “keep reminding you of the many people who agree with the path you are choosing for our state.” For the next year, Knapp never wavered, even as Mills’ emergency orders hamstrung her family’s small business. It was largely a one-sided correspondence, but Mills took heart from Knapp’s missives, even referencing them in her 2021 annual address to the state legislature. While Knapp wrote to Mills, the latter kept a daily journal, recording her sorrow over the pandemic’s rampage, her distress at the difficulty of managing it, and the relief she found in Maine’s outdoors and her circle of (safely distanced) friends. Mullen nods at the confusion some of Mills’ policies promulgated, but the account is unabashedly admiring. Like-minded Mainers will find it a heartwarming record; those further flung will recognize much while encountering uniquely Maine variations, not least of which is the state’s unlikely love affair with its pandemic-era Maine CDC director, Dr. Nirav Shah. The author quotes her subjects and other sources liberally and diligently, but too often the inclusion of unremarkable text slows readers' passage. Still, her earnest approach will keep readers engaged.

Readers will find both governor and homesteader sturdy pandemic companions.

Pub Date: June 6, 2023

ISBN: 9781586423681

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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

ISBN: 9781668009048

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow


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

ISBN: 9780525429524

Page Count: 992

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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