A spirited pursuit of the spiritual, impolite but incisive.

BUTTERFLY ON THE WRIST

LIFE IS OUT TO HEAL US

This far-ranging spiritual memoir reveals the author’s dramatic search for spiritual enlightenment in places like Auschwitz and Hoboken, N.J., on a route that diverges from the conventional spiritual path.

Androsiglio has a PhD in clinical psychology, but in this slangy monologue he’s concerned less with an intellectual immersion in psychology than with his apparently unquenchable thirst for spiritual knowledge. Two opposing energies follow Androsiglio throughout his spiritual journey: self-hatred (manifested in alcoholism and joyless promiscuity) and an instructive friendship with the unconventional Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. The monk helps Androsiglio overcome bouts of masochistic behavior by offering a gentle form of Christian mysticism that emphasizes self-forgiveness and an appreciation for life and the lessons it teaches us. Where needed, Androsiglio employs his psychoanalytic skills—mainly to analyze the effects of the sexual and verbal abuse inflicted upon him as a child by his emotionally volatile father. But most of Androsiglio’s memoir records a relentless quest for the spiritual meaning of his life. While absorbing David’s teaching, Androsiglio looks for additional guidance from all over the globe—a Peruvian shaman, a Hindu teacher of erotically charged yoga and the Dalai Lama. “My personality thrived on the exotic,” Androsiglio writes. After indulging in a variety of Latin American and Asian spiritual systems, he even visits the gas chambers of Auschwitz and his former family home in Hoboken, N.J., to confront the extremes of suffering—people versus personal. The eponymous butterfly symbolically represents Androsiglio’s delicate soul, and everyone’s. Whether a reader finds pleasure or pain in this account will depend on valuing it as a curious soul’s flitting with mystical exoticism, or as the heartfelt odyssey of a passionate spiritualist soaring toward nirvana. Plenty of political opinions and snap character judgments of family, friends and gurus all serve to distract from Androsiglio’s answer.

A spirited pursuit of the spiritual, impolite but incisive.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463744656

Page Count: 348

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2012

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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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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