Uncertain in organization and thin on insight—a blown opportunity.

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THE BOOK OF EXODUS

THE MAKING AND MEANING OF BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS’ ALBUM OF THE CENTURY

A veteran reggae observer offers her take on an icon’s defining statement.

Goldman (Bob Marley, 1981) seems perfectly situated to write a compelling fly-on-the-wall book about the late reggae star’s 1977 album Exodus (named “Album of the Century” by Time magazine in 1999). Formerly features editor for the defunct British music weekly Sounds, she interviewed Marley frequently in Jamaica (where she stayed in his home for a time) and London, attended sessions for Exodus and accompanied the Wailers on their ’77 European tour. She takes a muddled trek through an interesting story. Goldman’s digressive account is mired by the enormous amount of backstory she must tell: Marley’s long apprenticeship in the island’s music business, the finer points of the Rastafarian faith and its connection with Judeo-Christian thought and the tangled and violent intrigues of ’70s Jamaican politics. A third of the book has gone by before Goldman arrives at her tale’s flashpoint event: the politically motivated December 1976 attempt on Marley’s life at his Kingston home, which led to his flight to London. There, the Wailers undertook studio work that resulted in not one but two albums, Exodus and its lightweight 1978 sequel Kaya (which she deals with only in passing). Despite a wealth of firsthand knowledge and copious new interviews, Goldman fails to bring the reader closer to an understanding of the record—a compelling mix of spiritual anthems and blissful love songs—or the deepest motivations of the artist who created it. A labored look at interpretations of the biblical exodus through artistic history stops the book dead in its middle section, while observations about the intersection of punk and reggae similarly bog it down near the end. An anecdote-studded track-by-track analysis of the album is no better than what one finds in other making-of tomes by less-savvy musical trainspotters.

Uncertain in organization and thin on insight—a blown opportunity.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-5286-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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