A satisfying, informative memoir of the perseverance and bravery necessary to survive a painful illness.

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Straight from the Gut

BATTLING INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE

A harrowing journey into and out of colonic disease.

California-based electrical engineer and marketing specialist Sardana’s grueling, 20-year odyssey battling chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) began when the author first had intestinal discomfort and rectal bleeding during the summer of 1990. A series of exploratory examinations revealed ulcerative colitis as the culprit, which is a principal component of IBD, an involuntary, autoimmune response to pathogens present in the gut. Medications helped, but the inflammation became a chronic condition, as did his yo-yoing weight and mood swings. Raised in India, Sardana describes many Indian traditions throughout the book, including food and social customs and marital rites, though his battle with IBD remains the centerpiece as he describes his relentless worsening condition, leading to the successful excision of his colon and rectum. After the birth of his two children, however, Crohn’s disease emerged, and its ensuing complications ushered in a new host of associative troubles such as depression, insomnia, and diabetes, all of which the author controlled with more than 30 daily medications. He comprehensively describes surgeries with intricate narration, figure drawings, and postoperative photographic imagery, which may prove too graphic for sensitive readers. Also included is the preoperative and postoperative play-by-play from his experiences with the incapacitating illness alongside an exploration of alternative healing therapies, such as meditation, yoga, and acupuncture, which boosted his severely deteriorated quality of life as the ordeal progressed yet eventually became manageable. Reflecting on his own hopeful prognosis, his text offers compassionate understanding, personal coping mechanisms, and well-coordinated comfort to other “comrades” with a core message of hope, survival, and coexistence with the intimidating condition. Sardana remains a surprisingly grounded narrator throughout his two-decade ordeal, reflecting that “there is nothing like a full-blown medical crisis to make you fully alive to the precariousness of your existence.” A reliable spokesman and treatment advocate for the disease, his current proactive awareness campaign includes a website and personal appearances.

A satisfying, informative memoir of the perseverance and bravery necessary to survive a painful illness.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1497457003

Page Count: 176

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2015

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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

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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