A brush with death causes southern novelist McLaurin (Woodrow's Trumpet, 1989; The Acorn Plan, 1988) to reflect, with unflinching honesty and seductive, unsentimental passion, on what his North Carolina heritage has meant to him. Forget those treasured images of mint juleps and magnolia blossoms. McLaurin's Cape Fear River Valley in rural North Carolina is a land where young boys take part in breech-birthing hogs, dance excitedly around dead-drunk daddies passed out in their own vomit, refuse to eat food touched by black hands—and end up in jail, church, the military, or, most likely, dead by age 35. Raised in a two-bedroom farmhouse with four brothers, a sister, a dad who worked in a bakery and tried to raise a little money off the land, and without an indoor bathroom, McLaurin met a different fate for no better reason, he claims, than an inexplicable need to challenge himself with the unfamiliar. While his younger brothers seemed content to accept the working-class lives that awaited them, McLaurin escaped by becoming a basketball hero in high school, a Marine after graduation, a collector of poisonous snakes while working as a Pepsi salesman, and a Peace Corps volunteer after he married his second, upper-middle-class wife. Still, McLaurin remained much more a part of the rural South than apart from it, as he realized at age 36 when he was diagnosed with cancer and his family gathered around to donate the bone marrow that would save him and to offer commiseration and comfort. His gratitude is mirrored here in these unsanitized recollections of the schoolhouse cruelties, bloody cockfights, drunken brawls, gruesome deaths and suicides, and moments of beauty that make up the life he nearly lost. A powerful work—and a welcome record of a rapidly fading way of life.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1991

ISBN: 0-393-02996-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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