A fresh look at the sources and a careful eye to leadership and character places this book high atop the list of recent...

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CRUCIBLE OF COMMAND

ULYSSES S. GRANT AND ROBERT E. LEE—THE WAR THEY FOUGHT, THE PEACE THEY FORGED

“The cheering proved to be our folly.” Thus said Robert E. Lee, chiding Southern vanity at the outbreak of the Civil War, the setting for this thoughtful study of command.

Recognizing that plenty has already been written about the generals who led the Civil War on both sides, Davis (History/Virginia Tech Univ.; The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History, 2011, etc.) takes an interesting approach, using secondary sources and correcting them where applicable and relying on first-person, contemporary accounts of Lee and his formidable adversary, Ulysses S. Grant. The men had met in the field in the war with Mexico but had traveled in different orbits, Grant in particular having a flair for, if not always success in, business. Both, however, inclined to the depressive and carried the burden of the literally countless men who died in their service. Lee, writes the author, was opposed to secession and, by his account, was a reluctant slaveholder; moreover, he professed that his country was Virginia, a sentiment radical South Carolinians returned by suspecting Lee of lukewarm devotion to the cause. Yet Lee was a faithful lieutenant to the Southern government, and Jefferson Davis in particular, even though his “mistrust of politicians kept him aloof from the political morass.” Grant was less aloof, carefully gauging political mood swings, though Lee was no slouch, either, as when he instructed his Virginia troops in battle in Maryland to pretend “to be Marylanders holding their own ground,” thus rallying their allies and evidencing “a neat bit of political and diplomatic camouflage showing Lee’s subtlety in areas other than military.” Indeed, one of Davis’ chief contributions in this accessible, well-written study is to show how thoroughly politicized the war was—as was its aftermath, revealed by a charged but by no means unfriendly meeting the two had in 1868, when Grant was in the White House.

A fresh look at the sources and a careful eye to leadership and character places this book high atop the list of recent Civil War histories.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-306-82245-2

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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