A long-winded but immersive chronicle.

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Discombobulation

WHEN CLANS COLLIDE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF URBAN RENEWAL, BABY BOOMERS, KNUCKLEHEADS, AND STUPIDVILLE

The story of an African-American born shortly before the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Davidson’s (When Clans Collide, 2013, etc.) second memoir of a planned trilogy picks up where his previous book left off: his parents’ migration to the industrial North from the agricultural South, where they experienced institutional discrimination. At one point, Davidson recounts a moment of “discombobulation” after a classmate socked him on the jaw, leaving him bewildered and angry. These two feelings went on to comprise most of his reactions to events in his life, including his involvement in a neighborhood he dubs “Stupidville,” where drugs ran rampant and danger lurked. Davidson offers abstract descriptions of his interactions in Stupidville, rather than recounting his substance abuse in detail, but his reckless ways led him to blow paychecks earned during stints as a lineman in Detroit car factories and as a general laborer and made him miss the birth of his first daughter. Davidson finally escaped Stupidville, if not all the habits he learned there, when he joined the military in 1979 at the age of 28. The next decade saw him divorce his first wife and marry a woman he met in the military, eventually moving with her and their daughters to a string of Army bases in Germany, Arizona, Alaska, and Missouri. Later, Davidson earned a Ph.D., became a teacher, and joined the Toastmaster’s Club in order to become a practiced public speaker. Throughout this slow-paced book, Davidson often digresses, describing seemingly insignificant vignettes in an almost gossipy tone. The book’s structure breaks up his life into four segments centered mainly on his childhood, young-adulthood, military career, and present-day life. He does weave in colorful details from each era, describing music, reflecting on popular culture, and offering his views of important historical events. Each section ends with a list of milestones, along with what he calls “knucklehead incidents”—the results of foolish choices that he and his cohorts made. Although Davidson’s memoir isn’t explicitly about overcoming substance abuse, it takes a redemptive view of his rise from “Stupidville” while also remaining wary of the threat of slipping back into his old ways. He effectively presents his story as a cautionary tale marred by drugs, violence, anger issues, and infidelity.

A long-winded but immersive chronicle.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4582-1913-8

Page Count: 508

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 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 eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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