An exceptionally well-written memoir offering insights about the darker side of the human psyche.

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BOY IN THE IVY

THE INNER CHILD OF A BURIED MAN

In his deeply personal memoir, debut author McKinley draws lessons from his brother David’s late-life suicide. 

After his older brother’s suicide in 2009, McKinley wondered why his brother did it and why he didn’t succumb to suicide himself. He shares his answers in an illuminating autobiography, delving into his feeling of depression, shame and inadequacy. In Chapter 1, McKinley describes his brother’s disappearance and the family’s realization that it was suicide. He introduces the idea of “the buried man”—as if he and his brother buried the pain of self-loathing. From there, McKinley tells his life story, using Julia Cameron’s technique for healing the inner child from The Vein of Gold (1996). He writes about growing up during the turbulent ’70s in a moderately wealthy family, which slowly dissolved under the pressure of keeping up appearances. Readers learn that McKinley felt unwanted as a child; he believed bad things would happen and withdrew into childhood fantasies. Describing an evening with his parents, he says: “There were times it felt so cold in that living room I half-expected to see my own breath. The scarab scratch of pencil on paper was the only sound. We’d go on this way in silence until the fire died.” He goes on to recount his early adult life, bouncing from job to job, working in LA as a stand-up comedian, and finally settling into marriage, family and a steady career as an English teacher. Yet even into midlife, he admits being buried under suppressed rage and low self-esteem, which he medicated while refurbishing an old home—until something happened: He found a statue of a boy buried in ivy, which becomes the symbol of his life’s new direction. Rather than remaining buried in pain, he discovers the life-saving lessons his brother never learned: We should talk about our problems and ask for help, since we’re all worthy of love. McKinley’s knack for conversational, engaging writing transforms what could have been an ordinary, if tragic, tale of modern life into an intriguing read filled with exceptional insights conveyed without being preachy. Mercifully free of psychobabble, McKinley’s memoir resonates with genuine emotion.

An exceptionally well-written memoir offering insights about the darker side of the human psyche.

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482761290

Page Count: 282

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2013

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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