Less interior reflection than an uneven but intermittently potent stumble toward a path into an uncertain future.

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I'M JUST GETTING TO THE DISTURBING PART

ON WORK, FEAR, AND FATHERHOOD

An essayist challenges expectations of “truth” and “clarity” as he frequently finds himself in a state of flux.

At the beginning of his latest, Church (One with the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters Between Humans and Animals, 2016, etc.) provides the key to how his work differs from essayistic convention, how “clarity…seems not only highly overrated as a state of mind, but also anathema to the origins of the essay, which saw the form as an exercise in self-doubt and noble confusion.” Noble or not, confusion runs rampant through the early essays, in which reflection rarely proceeds to clarity; often, the author doesn’t seem to know what he thinks about what has happened until well after the fact. Though he describes these essays as outliers that didn’t fit thematically into earlier collections, they hold together fairly well, reading as much like a memoir as an essay collection. Most are set in Colorado and farther West, as Church chronicles the various jobs he worked while finishing his graduate education. He proceeds from the ambivalences of courtship through marriage, fatherhood, and divorce, until the concluding, almost stream-of-consciousness “Overpass Into Fog”: “suspended between past and future, I disappeared into language and place, weather and love, and I wondered how close I’d come to flying totally untethered, released from the bonds of concrete reality.” In many of the essays, Church is bridging, or straddling, or in between something and something else. “We’re all sort of in-between things or just starting something new, definitely in a period of proverbial flux; and we’re still getting used to the changes,” he writes in setting the scene in the powerful title essay, which follows the author’s witnessing a boy’s drowning. He was unable to help, and the experience returns the death of Church’s brother painfully to his consciousness. Fatherhood fills him with fear, much of which he shares in these pages.

Less interior reflection than an uneven but intermittently potent stumble toward a path into an uncertain future.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944853-45-7

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Outpost19

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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

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.

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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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