The author’s mother and father got a divorce at a time when it was still taboo. Later, her family included several half...

Rambler Rose

Metcalf’s memoir explores growing up in 1950s and ’60s California with a complicated family.

The author’s mother and father got a divorce at a time when it was still taboo. Later, her family included several half siblings; her sister, Lynn; and multiple grandparents, including the artistic Nana. The first part of the memoir is crammed with genealogy, which slows the story down, but the pace picks up when Metcalf’s mother remarries. The author’s relationship with her stepfather is depicted as initially fraught with anger and suspicion, but later, they seem to come to an understanding. Metcalf dreamt of being a Hollywood star and liked to socialize rather than study. After getting suspended at public school, she attended an all-girls Catholic high school and later converted to the faith. Eventually, after going through romantic relationships and secretarial school, she wound up at the University of California, Berkeley. Metcalf grew up in a time that was politically and socially shifting, but she always brings the story back to her own family. The title, for example, refers to the pattern on her parents’ wedding silverware; it appears to symbolize transition, and she uses it as a theme threaded throughout the narrative. Unfortunately, it’s a loose thread, and one that often feels like an afterthought. The most complex, humorous, and tense relationship is between Metcalf and her mother, who obsessed over appearances, which, in turn, encouraged Metcalf to rebel in numerous ways. But throughout their tug of war, Metcalf still loved her mother and her penchant for telling stories. The author’s style successfully captures her childlike innocence and wonder throughout. However, the sentences can be stilted at times, and the dialogue sometimes unnaturally provides background information (“I said, ‘Now that I know something about the rosary, tell me about confession’ ”). Some scenarios are surprising, but they’re sadly rushed, such as when the author describes experimenting with cutting herself with scissors as a 7-year-old. As the narrator, however, Metcalf is likable; amidst school suspensions, called-off engagements, and dropping out of college, she remains bright, inquisitive, and always up for the next adventure.

Pub Date: May 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5035-6976-8

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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