While it delivers an enticing glimpse of the past and the afterlife, this account becomes convoluted at times.

WEAVED FROM ERRORS OF MY ANCESTRY

HEALING MEDITATION: THE 2ND REVISED EDITION

A semiautobiographical work explores one woman’s ancestors and Russian history.

As Elmanovich (In Eternity, 2015, etc.) asserts at the outset, the pages that follow are based on recordings of her conversations with ghosts. The author, born to a Russian family living in Estonia, settled in the United States at the age of 55. Now in her 80s, she is a medium able to “hear voices of spirits and angels.” The specters in this collection tend to be deceased family members, some of whom Elmanovich never met while they were living. All have a connection to Russia and Estonia. There is the author’s Aunt Tatyana, who died at 11 and explains the reasons for her death. Elmanovich’s Uncle Jurik speaks from beyond the grave about the World War II siege of Leningrad. Her maternal grandmother, Anna, with the aid of a spirit helper named Hildegard, explains the circumstances of a horrendous marriage. The ghosts do not merely speak of the earthly realm. They have much to say about the “4D astral world” and some of it is surprising. For instance, cocaine is used by some in the afterlife to alleviate their woes. As one user explains, “Narcotics lift me to another vibration for a while.” An afterlife pregnancy even proves to be a possibility. Throughout the book, there are also bits and pieces of the author’s own life. She is a former film critic whose decades of experience have taught her that all people are flawed. As she explained to her brother, “Ideal people do not exist in reality.” Elmanovich’s ambitious work covers a wide range of material in a fairly small amount of pages. A family history of the Bolshevik Revolution, existence in an astral world, and the difficulties of coming to America are captivating topics that could each fill a volume. The variety of intriguing subjects provides much to take in, though the interweaving can be clumsy. No sooner are readers told of the terror brought upon civilians by Kronstadt sailors in revolutionary Russia than shortly thereafter they learn of a Korean War veteran named Jose Martinez, a clairvoyant who died before his 60th birthday of a drug overdose. And though the many pieces are sometimes jumbled or wild (astral world narcotics?), the book presents a number of potent points even for the skeptical. For example, discussing the horrors of Leningrad is no simple matter for a spirit like Jurik. The work explains how survivors know that their words will “never reach their listeners’ mind and emotions completely” because those without direct experience cannot fully appreciate what happened. Nevertheless, Jurik’s tales still have much to tell the audience. Similarly, readers may want to know more of the author’s story. Her abilities as a medium are stated as matter-of-factly as her arrival in America. But what does it fully mean to be a medium? When and how did she know she had this ability? The book ultimately covers a multitude of topics yet it leaves a host of unanswered questions.

While it delivers an enticing glimpse of the past and the afterlife, this account becomes convoluted at times.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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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

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