An admirable debut memoir featuring both a compelling narrator and a captivating story.


Lily's Daughter


An illuminating coming-of-age memoir set in communist Hungary.

Born to a Jewish mother and Catholic father in 1940, Zsuzsa feels beloved and pampered. By late 1944, the family huddles in a tiny coal cellar with neighbors and listens to the bombs overhead as Nazis invade Budapest. They survive, only to face another type of prison: life under the Stalin regime and, later, the Russian occupation. As she moves through her childhood and teenage years, the precocious Zsuzsa offers cleareyed observations about her relationship with her parents (particularly her mother), friendships, schoolwork, theater and the discovery of boys, along with the struggles to find basics like food, clothing and shelter. Wild rumors fly amid the unexplained disappearances of teachers, family and friends, while arbitrary new government rules lead to nonstop pressure. The contrast of the ordinary and extraordinary creates a fascinating tension. Instead of normal summer camp in the woods, Zsuzsa attends Pioneer Camp at a crumbling mansion where she’s forced into night-guard duty. Instead of a full day of instruction, school hours include singing Red Army songs and marching and standing in formation. Vivid sensory details capture each experience, whether eating a juicy orange for the first time in years or listening to the clattering printing press where her journalist father works. Periodic short sentences and paragraphs cut to the painful truth: “School starts. Fourth grade. A completely new teacher appears.” The 100-plus short sections, organized chronologically, feel cohesive and well-paced, particularly after the opening pages, which provide the background of Zsuzsa’s parents. With its authentic voice and keen observations from a youthful narrator, the story evokes The Diary of Anne Frank. Secondary characters are briefly but vividly introduced and easy to differentiate. The particularly riveting last section offers the delightful paradox of wanting to read faster to reach the conclusion but slower to prolong the enjoyment.

An admirable debut memoir featuring both a compelling narrator and a captivating story.

Pub Date: April 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468563566

Page Count: 400

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 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

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.


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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