Readers who can overlook Zéphanie’s self-indulgent prose will be stirred by her courage and intentionality.


A coming-of-age memoir set in World War II-era France.

Zéphanie grows up in an uncaring family, surrounded by the petty cruelties of poverty, illness, alcoholism and city life. As a young child, she is shuffled among country homes, militaristic camps and boarding schools, and develops a strong moral compass and an unending compassion for the suffering and downtrodden. When WWII breaks out, she manages not just to survive but to nurture her “inner voice,” a mix of religious understanding and almost supernatural premonition. From the death of her father to joining the French resistance against the Nazis to time spent in the French Air Force, Zéphanie longs for love and looks for the good in everyone. Her prose, while often clunky and overly lush, nevertheless richly invokes the physicality of the time and place. Her insistence on referring to herself in the third person can feel ponderous, especially when compounded with her tendency toward high-minded musings and an overuse of phrases such as “Silent Heroes.” Her insistence on the precociousness and goodness of her young self, while creating a bond between her and the reader, can be a turn-off, especially when most of her goodness is not so much exceptional as it is remaining human in circumstances where others lose their humanity. Despite all this, Zéphanie’s earnest recounting of her life and deep engagement with morality make her a compelling and sympathetic character. She examines family life in depth, shedding light on the difficulties both neglected children and overworked parents faced during the time. Her fearlessness in speaking up for what’s right, whether against the arrogance of American troops in Paris or the callousness of nuns who mistreat her despite their Christian beliefs, is an inspiring reminder of all the ways in which people can stand up against injustice. The first of a two-part autobiography, Zéphanie’s story paints a thoughtful picture of a young girl coming into her own humanity.

Readers who can overlook Zéphanie’s self-indulgent prose will be stirred by her courage and intentionality.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-1452054872

Page Count: 314

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2010

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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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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