An unconventional and perceptive memoir that aims to inspire readers to “discover the happiness that is waiting to be...

MIGRATING TOWARD HAPPINESS

THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

A restless woman takes an epic road trip across the United States in this musically inspired memoir. 

For most, a layoff is a cause for panic, but when O’Grady lost her job at an unnamed not-for-profit organization, her immediate response was to think, “This is a gift.” Freed from office drudgery and eager to escape New York City, which she saw as “cluttered with concrete and steel,” O’Grady decided it was time to “see the USA in her Chevrolet,” just like her Irish-immigrant paternal grandmother, Catherine, did decades earlier. The latter died before the author was born, so this trip was an attempt to connect with an ancestor whom she never knew. It was also a way for her to “wake up to my soul’s purpose” and refocus a life that had become disconnected from her goals and dreams, which included jazz singing. Remarkably, O’Grady convinced Chevrolet to loan her a vehicle for the journey. With a friend for company, she took off from New York, intending to drive cross-country to Seattle. In thoughtful, insightful prose, she describes her trip and the people she encountered, from workers at an Ohio factory that made General Motors truck engines to the owner of a hotel in tiny Wall, South Dakota. These personal connections are what interest O’Grady the most, so readers shouldn’t expect lengthy digressions on the majesty of Yellowstone or Glacier National Park, where she made brief pit stops. Instead, the book employs an unusual structure, like a mixtape, with each chapter title taken from a particular song—such as Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands” for when she travels through South Dakota or Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” as she recalls her beloved Granny Nora’s death. The author proves to be a firm believer in signs (“I must have a guardian angel protecting me or a spirit guide sending me messages. There’s always a sign”), and she tells of looking for messages from her deceased grandmother. She also offers some surprising insights on the nature of the American Dream and the immigrant experience. 

An unconventional and perceptive memoir that aims to inspire readers to “discover the happiness that is waiting to be revealed at his or her core.”

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9822-2099-0

Page Count: 254

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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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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