A straightforward, good-humored narration of a genuinely fascinating life, but with too many pages devoted to its mundane...



In this debut memoir, a globetrotting teacher from small-town India recounts 80 years at home and throughout Africa, against backdrops of occasional political turmoil.

Nadukkudiyil was born in what is now the southern Indian state of Kerala, in 1931, a time when his older relatives could still remember people being bought and much of the country was under British rule. During the next 20 years, Nadukkudiyil lived out a happy, colorful childhood; India struggled for independence; our narrator graduated high school and miserably attempted to work the family farm before being granted a reprieve in the form of college; colonialism ended to great jubilation but also great turbulence; and Nadukkudiyil ran away from home to make his way in the big bad city of Madras, where he was robbed, experienced life at the bottom rung of society and returned home the sheepish prodigal son. Upon graduating college, he set out to teach in first the port city of Aden (now part of Yemen), then rural Ethiopia, less-rural Ethiopia, Eritrea, and finally Nigeria, where he stayed for 25 years through a bloody coup and the Nigerian civil war. Along the way, he married and had kids. The narrator’s good cheer and upbeat outlook on life make for absorbing reading, and wonderfully vivid images appear throughout, such as a childhood memory of clearing the front yard of frogs during a monsoon or milk bottles corked with rolled-up leaves. However, the story is flattened by a lack of shaping or pacing. Too much weight is given to mundane details like the layout of a school or the bureaucratic process of applying for a job transfer, while events that should stand out in sharper relief, like the sight of an anti-Jewish massacre in Aden, are lost in the deluge of information. Numerous unfamiliar terms are used without explanation, and major events like the births of the author’s children do not receive much attention.

A straightforward, good-humored narration of a genuinely fascinating life, but with too many pages devoted to its mundane aspects.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461119203

Page Count: 563

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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 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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