GOODBYE, DARKNESS

A MEMOIR OF THE PACIFIC WAR

We couldn't, thinks ex-Marine Sergeant Manchester, take Tarawa again (or Guadalcanal or Iwo Jima or Okinawa): today's young wouldn't plod "patiently on and on"—chest-deep in water, weapons over their heads, keeping formation"—while their comrades were keeling over on all sides." That isn't the only message of Manchester's return, in memory and in person, to Pacific battlegrounds, but it's the one that forces a yea or nay from the reader—while one can easily remain indifferent to (even skeptical of) Manchester's personal quest for the reason he left a hospital bed, before Okinawa, to rejoin his men: it was—climax-of-book—"an act of love." The entire reconnaissance, he says, was touched off by the appearance in his dreams of his young, tough, uncompromising self reproaching his present "portly, Brooks-Brothered" mid-fifties self: "what had happened in the third of a century since he had laid down his arms?" We then back up to the distinguished Manchester lineage; his (wounded) Marine veteran father and Old-Southern mother; his timid, picked-on childhood; his auspicious start at Amherst; his early enlistment in the Marines, love of rugged Parris Island, hatred of competitive Quantico OCS (he wittingly washed out); his hookup with the "military misfits"—most of them "liberal arts majors from old eastern colleges"—whose sergeant he was slated to be; and his two pre-embarkation attempts to lose his virginity (both aborted—one in party by "my outsize genitalia"—and neither quite credible). Also worked into the foregoing are the attack on Pearl Harbor, the loss of the Philippines, and the Herculean securing of New Guinea—which brings the Pacific War, and Manchester's unit, to Guadalcanal. And whatever one thinks of both stories-so-far (or of the coupling—a kind of personalized pop history), the subsequent chronicle of debilitating jungle warfare on one after another "dumb island" (as a fed-up Marine put it) has an undeniable impact—not because the botched landing at Tarawa, for instance, is news, but because time has diminished neither the horror nor Manchester's outrage. At first, too, his reference to the Japanese as "Japs" or "Nips" rankles; and one recoils when he writes, early on, "thank God for the atomic bomb." But his description of Japanese tactics—first the suicide attacks, then the suicidal last stands—demonstrates why he's still appalled at the prospect of storming mainland Japan. Similarly, what he finds on these islands now is of varying interest or noteworthiness (the native culture corrupted; Japanese tourists and/or businessmen) until he reaches Saipan, where Allied forces first encountered Japanese civilians; at the island's fall, all 18,000 hurled themselves off two cliffs . . . and their bodies are still being recovered and cremated, so the ashes can be returned to Japan. The eventual death of most of Manchester's men on Okinawa's Sugar Loaf is more immediate but not more unnerving. And his farewell to his Sergeant-self—atop today's built-over Sugar-Loaf—seems if anything a cheapening artifice. As for the upright, moral, industrious pre-WW II America that he deems responsible for his generation's sacrifice, it will not be recognized by many of his contemporaries ("Mothers were beloved, fathers obeyed"; "To accept unemployment compensation, had it existed, would have been considered humiliating"); and to Americans of any age, it might appear a misguided ideal. But one can dissent from much of this and still be shaken.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1980

ISBN: 0316501115

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980

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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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