A disturbing memoir, but one that could possibly be instructive for readers involved in adoption.

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FAILING CORDELIA: PARENTAL LOVE AND PARENTAL-STATE THEFT IN LOS ANGELES JUVENILE DEPENDENCY COURT. BOOK ONE. THE CANKERED ROSE AND ESTHER'S REVENGE

In this debut autobiography, an adoptive father rails against the Los Angeles family court system after it takes away his adopted daughter following an accusation of abuse.

The book centers on Cambridge’s account of his misadventures with the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and its “Commissioner No,” his lengthy tale’s bête noire. In April 2008, the childless author and his wife legally adopted the 12-year-old “Cordelia” in Washington state. She’d been diagnosed with a psychological disorder marked by inappropriate responses to social interactions, which proved to be a major difficulty. Cambridge writes that he was fervent in his desire to be a good father, and he says that this required, on one occasion, for him to shower nude with the then-teenage Cordelia, at her request. By late 2008, his wife had fled their Seattle household for Los Angeles. Then, one day in July 2009, the author and his daughter had an argument; during this, he says, Cordelia viciously bit him. In what he calls the greatest mistake of his life, he called the police; Cordelia then alleged abuse, and authorities sent her to live with her adoptive mother in California. The author consequently embarked on a losing struggle, related here, to get her back, made more difficult by his own 2012 diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. A bibliography of books, articles, studies, and other resources on adoption, family law, and mental disorders ends this chaotic memoir. Cambridge, a transplanted Englishman who loves Bob Dylan, Shakespeare, and his home state of Washington, presents a feverish but long-winded cry for justice here. Only after much throat clearing, though, does he even reveal the unfortunate circumstances that ended his relationship with the girl, whom he calls “Cordelia,” after King Lear’s youngest and only true-hearted daughter. This smoldering but sometimes-carping and repetitive volume is the first of three that he plans to publish. By the end of this one, readers will find that Cambridge emerges with one great virtue intact: he seems honest, to a fault.

A disturbing memoir, but one that could possibly be instructive for readers involved in adoption. 

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4990-4692-2

Page Count: 470

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2016

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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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