An enjoyable self-portrait, but one that misses an opportunity to paint a fuller picture.

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RIDING THIS ELECTRON HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE

A SOUL SEARCHER’S THEORY OF EVERYTHING

A memoir of one baby boomer’s life in Pennsylvania.

Debut author Zidik was born in 1953, the second of six children. He describes his upbringing in Hershey, Pennsylvania, as a happy time; early chapters offer memories of time spent with his maternal grandfather, who would discreetly throw back shots of Four Roses whiskey, and of a time that the author and his family sang along with a Nat King Cole to “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” during a summer drive. Of the latter experience, the author writes, “To this day it hasn’t been…replaced as the most joyful day of my life.” Zidik tells of making it through school and working as a dishwasher. In July 1976, he drove to California in a 1967 Rambler Ambassador with his then-girlfriend, and now wife, Pamela. Although the couple planned to stay in California, unfortunate circumstances sent them back to Pennsylvania to build their lives. The author sprinkles the memoir with bits of advice, such as “It is important to make a basic life plan and follow it as much as you can.” Later chapters tell of Zidik’s respect for the deer population near his home; he includes black-and-white photographs of several deer and their nicknames (such as “Uni,” “Gimpy,” and “Grouchy”). He also offers thoughts on staying healthy (“Your health is dangling on a fine thread, and it could snap at any time”). The book progresses quickly and has the feel of a long, pleasant conversation. The most striking and amusing moments highlight how things were handled differently in the past; for example, when the author, as a 12-year-old, went hunting with his relatives, the main safety advice he received about handling a shotgun was “Do not shoot that airplane” that was passing above. However, the stories have almost no connection to larger events of the era. If the author felt anything about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, for instance, or the mood of the country in the 1970s, or even changes in his home state over his lifetime, such feelings are largely absent here. Nevertheless, readers will find a well-told, though never overbearing, tale of one man’s existence.

An enjoyable self-portrait, but one that misses an opportunity to paint a fuller picture.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4897-1429-9

Page Count: 170

Publisher: LifeRichPublishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2018

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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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