An affecting tale of triumph over brutal debasement.

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THORNS OF CHESTER STREET

A debut memoir chronicles a man’s struggle with his sexual identity and the ghastly abuse he suffered as a child. 

Nemeth was born in a small town in Ohio in 1969, and starting at an early age, he suffered withering mistreatment. His book portrays his mother as an irresponsible alcoholic largely indifferent to his happiness, and his stepfather, Jed, as terrifyingly mercurial, by turns cruelly violent or sulkily detached. According to the author, Nemeth’s biological father also took pleasure in the infliction of fear, and tortured the boy for the sake of his own cruel delight. And, Nemeth charges, Jed’s brother, Owen, sexually abused both the author and his half sister, Hailey, transgressions appallingly tolerated by the children’s custodians. In addition, the author wrestled with his attraction to boys, feelings that caused him a profound sense of shame and which he could confide to no one. Nemeth found some solace in his spirituality—he started attending church on his own at the age of 7, and his faith in Jesus was lovingly nurtured by his grandmother. He combined that source of strength with a passion for music—he attended a high school in Ohio with an excellent music and theater program, and studied vocal performance in college. He was eventually ordained a minister and toured the world as the director of a musically charged ministry. But Nemeth’s childhood trauma haunted him, as did his unresolved sexuality—he remained so conflicted he married a woman to whom he had no physical attraction. He struggled with drugs and alcohol, and contracted HIV from someone he believes knowingly infected him. The author’s remembrance is disarmingly forthright, a courageous confessional that is moving for its honesty alone. His prose is effortlessly limpid, though the story isn’t always told in in an unambiguously linear fashion, and the sequences of events can be a touch confusing. The dramatic culmination of the recollection is Nemeth’s forgiveness of his tormentors, a profound lesson in the transcendence of past pain (“Forgiveness is the healing ointment to the aching wounds of disappointment; the key that unlocks the prison door of anger. Forgiveness is the medicine that cleanses the soul from the poisonous toxicity of bitterness and resentment”). Furthermore, he furnishes an important meditation on the reconciliation of homosexuality and Christian life. 

An affecting tale of triumph over brutal debasement.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5487-9870-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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