Courageous and important but emotionally overdone.

UNDER THIS BEAUTIFUL DOME

A SENATOR, A JOURNALIST, AND THE POLITICS OF GAY LOVE IN AMERICA

An attorney and former journalist tells the dramatic story of her five-year undercover lesbian relationship with former Illinois Sen. Penny Severns.

When 27-year-old AP reporter Mutchler first saw 41-year-old Penny at the Illinois state capitol in April 1993, a “jolt of electricity passed through [her].” She knew nothing about the senator, including her sexual orientation. Fully aware of the risks involved in seeking out a personal relationship with a high-profile journalistic contact, Mutchler pursued Severns, and the two began a friendship that quickly turned into a passionate relationship. From the start, both women knew that their involvement was problematic—not only due to who they were professionally, but also sexually. Living and loving in secret, they developed complex, often exhausting ruses to hide the true nature of their relationship from all but a few people. Less than a year into their involvement, their situation became even more complicated when Severns was diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually take her life in 1998. Profoundly anguished, Mutchler watched the beautiful, vibrant woman she considered her spouse decline into helplessness, all too aware that “legally, [she] was nothing.” The situation only worsened after her partner’s death, when the senator’s sister and homophobic father distanced themselves from Mutchler and claimed the bulk of the senator’s estate—part of which Severns had acquired with the young reporter—for the Severns family alone. The author dwells too frequently and unrestrainedly on the pain and rage of her loss so that the narrative sometimes reads like grief therapy. Still, her book makes a moving case for why the fight for marriage equality must continue. “Somewhere inside my own being,” she writes, “I believed that because Penny and I were lesbians, we were second-class citizens. That is the most difficult grieving I do.”

Courageous and important but emotionally overdone.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-58005-508-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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