A deep, compassionate group biography of these “unsung heroes” of the Merchant Marines.

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THE MATHEWS MEN

SEVEN BROTHERS AND THE WAR AGAINST HITLER'S U-BOATS

An intricate look at the outsized role of a group of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, families in the dangerous work of the Merchant Marines during World War II.

As former Richmond Times-Dispatch journalist Geroux delineates in this stringently researched study, the Merchant Marines “was not a branch of the military” but rather “an association of privately owned shipping companies operating under the American flag, employing American crews, and fighting like bull sharks over contracts to haul goods by sea.” Thus, they became vitally important in control of the seas when war broke out officially in 1941. Mathews County, Virginia, had a long reputation for producing the most capable mariners, and Geroux spotlights several families whose fathers and sons took the brunt in parrying the German U-boats that hunted in the waters of the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, disrupting war supplies and oil to Britain and Europe. The author delves into the service of the Hodges family of Gales Neck, whose many sons became merchant mariners, working as independent contractors for the U.S. government who needed to carry the crucial war cargo across the seas. Facing the ramped-up U-boat campaign in the beginning stages, the U.S. did not have the wherewithal to protect the tankers and freighters—until the implementation of the convoy system in mid-summer 1942 after horrible losses at sea such as the sinking of the Onondaga. Geroux offers poignant accounts of these lost men, such as Onondaga’s Capt. George Dewey Hodges, whose remains and ring were soon after found in a captured shark. Sadly, however much the Merchant Marines aided in helping shepherd the convoys across the seas during the war effort, they were locked out of the postwar veterans’ benefits.

A deep, compassionate group biography of these “unsung heroes” of the Merchant Marines.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0525428152

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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