Ambitious and thoughtful work, successfully fusing the personal and social by raising complex questions about drugs,...

READ REVIEW

OPIUM FIEND

A 21ST CENTURY SLAVE TO A 19TH CENTURY ADDICTION

Boldly written, in-depth account of an expatriate aesthete’s dalliance with opium.

Journalist Martin (The Art of Opium Antiques, 2007) builds this unusual memoir around a clever conceit, making literal the similarities between collecting and addiction. Following a San Diego childhood marked by his urge to collect “anything that caught my fancy” and a stint in the Navy, Martin became a Bangkok-based writer of travel guides who first collected textiles before developing a then-obscure specialty: finely crafted opium accessories from the late-19th and early-20th centuries, when usage was both widespread and decried in Asia, America and France. Since then, opportunities to smoke opium have become rare. Organized crime diverts most poppy harvests toward heroin production, and Asian governments crack down upon any resurgence as an embarrassing historical slur. Through his collecting fervor, Martin eventually met a few devotees who had access to pure opium, or chandu. Since he by then possessed a unique collection of antique paraphernalia for the smoking ritual, he developed friendships that led first to extravagantly decadent smoking sessions, which via opium’s unique intoxication seemed to them deeply intellectual, but then to his own out-of-control addiction. He was bemused to find both opium’s wondrous qualities and the terrors of dependency much as they were depicted in his research. Ultimately, running out of both money and connections, Martin successfully negotiated the painful withdrawal at a Buddhist monastery. The author’s writing is capable and clear; though some of his opiated reveries can seem pretentious, he captures modern-day Southeast Asia—and the surreal risks of pursuing such experiences there—in vivid, concrete terms. While his depiction of addiction’s hazards is original and harrowing, his intellectual forthrightness seems nervy in the current political tenor, making the book stand out among recent memoirs.

Ambitious and thoughtful work, successfully fusing the personal and social by raising complex questions about drugs, addiction and contested cultural narratives.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-51783-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more