Like many medicines, probably best taken in small doses.

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WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN?

REFLECTIONS ON DEATH, REBIRTH, AND HUNGER FOR A FAITH

Broadcaster/writer Terkel (The Spectator, 1999, etc.) explores death and its impact on our sense of ourselves and on the meaning in our lives, in the latest in his pioneering series of oral histories.

The 60 interview subjects include professionals concerned with death and dying (doctors, social workers, clergy, police officers, firefighters), survivors of comas or near-death experiences, veterans of wars from WWII to Vietnam, singers and actors, civil-rights-movement veterans and AIDS activists. Many, like the astonishing Kid Pharaoh, will be familiar to readers of other Terkel volumes. Here, they share their reflections on the deaths of friends and loved ones, on the prospect of their own demise, and on their faith or lack if it—in the hereafter, in God, in human love, in the goodness of life, in the heartbreaking beauty of finitude. It’s remarkable how many of them have experienced some kind of communion with their beloved dead. There is food for reflection here for anyone both fascinated and frightened (and who isn’t?) by the thought of death. Readers will long remember Lloyd “Pete” Haywood, shot by a gangbanger and left for dead in the elevator of a housing project, whose faith allows him to refuse revenge; Dimitri Mihalis, a physicist who, having passed through depression, traumatic brain injury, and lithium psychosis, can still say, “My life has been touched by grace”; Maureen Young, the mother of a teenager killed, seemingly at random, by a teenaged gang member, who finds herself reaching out to her son’s killer; William Herdegen, a remarkably compassionate undertaker unafraid of the bodies of the victims of AIDS. Unfortunately, others interviewed blend together; for all their variety of race, profession, belief (or lack of it), and sexual orientation, perhaps too many of his subjects are in Terkel’s own progressive, activist mold.

Like many medicines, probably best taken in small doses.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2001

ISBN: 1-56584-692-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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