Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Review: Untamed

Untamed Untamed by Glennon Doyle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Glennon Doyle is a deep thinker. She is an incredibly gifted writer. This book is the most serious by far. It is weighty and difficult to read at times. It's almost too much thought and word over something that doesn't need that much thought. There are many nuggets of wisdom within the pages but also a lot of pretty writing and descriptions that exhaust me. I found the book exhausting, actually.

I also found too many contradictions for my soul to find peace. For instance and I know I don't have the full picture but, Glennon and her husband were having serious issues. She called her marriage broken and was on the precipice of making a decision to stay or go. The underlying issue was that her husband had a long line of infidelities. Then G. goes to a conference to promote her book, ironically about putting the broken pieces back together to make a whole family, and Abby walks in and G. thinks, "There she is." The issue that Craig was unfaithful is a big issue. Something that any spouse should sit with and decide what to do, taking into account the needs of the cheated upon as well as the children. That's a whole process of its own. Rather than exploring that, G. starts a relationship with Abby. So she is then guilty of the same thing as her husband; being unfaithful. That just didn't sit right with me.

There are other inconsistencies that, taken only on the emotional level, the reader nods her head and says, "Yes! That's it!" Yet if the reader sits with the essay, pares it down from the pretty words, the essay becomes more of a justification for Glennon doing something that goes against her conscience. She often refers to herself as finally being free to be the cheetah that she was always meant to be, but it often sounds more like excuses for doing whatever she wants, hurting the people that count on her, then wrapping it up in pretty words and true nuggets of wisdom and presenting it to the world. Be who you want to be. Do what you want to do. But don't wrap it cheetah crap in a pretty box, put a bow on it, spray perfume on it, and call it a gift.

Beautiful words, beautiful essays, contradicting messages, lots of words that seem to want to justify that she betrayed her own beliefs by starting a relationship before she was divorced, shook the foundation of her family and herself, tearing down the building blocks of two marriages; her own and Abby's, and upended her children's reality just so she could do whatever she wants to do and calls it Being True to Herself. I found a lot of mental gymnastics and words that didn't quite equate to what she claimed to be saying so I have my doubts about her being True to Herself.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Review: Spare

Spare Spare by Prince Harry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Part I: This book has been wholly mischaracterized. Parts of it have been quoted in the media but, like most of Harry’s life, it is taken out of context. This book, at the very heart of it, is about a boy and his grief. Grief is complex. Processing the death of a mother at the age of 12 is a complicated undertaking for any adolescent boy. Harry’s journey with grief is isolated and lonely. That is the most striking tone of the book. Being part of the British Monarchy means standing apart from the rest, allowing conjecture even when it’s wrong, and never receiving the comfort needed.

This is not a Kitty Kelly tell-all. The attention Prince Harry gives to others is framed by and within his relationships. In fact, the relationships are quite endearing. I like King Charles much better after reading this book. The relationship between Harry and his father is quite tender. In fact, most of my preconceived notions about many of the Royalty were quite wrong. They really are humans cast in the role of Royals. Which really is quite lonely.

The barrier Harry breaks down shedding light on his own life. The life within the Monarchy is fascinating and different from anything I’ve ever known. At the same time, a very human Harry is navigating his duties, his education, trying to stay out of the tabloids, youthful foibles, growing up, and being human, all under the scrutiny of everybody. More than anything, though, Prince Harry is a boy carrying the heavy burden of his grief with nobody to help him process it. He’s not blaming anybody, he’s simply giving his story in authentic strokes and through the perspective of a man that has gained wisdom from his journey. I’m not finished but I’m finding the overarching theme of grief and loneliness universal.

To be continued.


Part II: Wow. Really. Wow. I have a lot of thoughts on this book. The first is that this is the first time a member of the British Monarchy has told his or her story first person. There is no hiding behind the curtain and the pretense of using a third party. This is Harry's story. Harry sheds a light on the goings on within the Monarchy. Again, it is not a gossip rag or tell-all. The Monarchy is a complex system. I watched interviews and was highly confused. Harry talks about the "Institution" with disdain yet shares a recent interaction with a grandparent that is heartwarming and tender. Although it's still not completely clear to me, it seems the Monarchy consists of 4 distinct parts. The first is the institution of the Monarchy. This is an overarching everythingness. It is the pomp and circumstance, the charitable work, the bloody history, the Royal Engagements, and all the people that make it work. It is the Crown. It is the national pride. It is sacred and must be protected at all costs. The second part of the Monarchy is the people. This was Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, Princess Diana, Harry, William, King Charles, etc. They are individuals and have relationships separate from the Institution. The Institution often dictates how they are treated in public and even how the Queen might meet her new great grandchildren, but this part is more personal. That said, the Institution of the Monarchy comes before all else. So relationships are not always intact. Thirdly, we have Royal Aides and secretaries. These are political parties/people that provide services for the Institution. These are also people that leak crap stories to the fourth, and final members of the Monarchy; the Press. The Press is not inherently evil but the tabloids are. Like in the United States, Rupert Murdoch has no respect for truth, privacy, or human life. But he is not the only one. Very early on, Harry establishes that the story spun by the parties regarding Diana's death was one of fiction. The blame fell on the driver who they claimed was drunk (he never drank while on duty) and was dead so he couldn't defend himself. Based on the way the tabloid reporters treated Harry, it is evident that it was they who ran the car into the pylon, causing Diana's death.

All of that is simply a preface to Prince Harry's story. He is unflinchingly honest. He is still very careful to not throw any family members under the bus. He is, however, honest in the fact that they are complicit in their dysfunctional symbiotic relationship with the tabloids. Prince Harry provides context for the past 25 years for his life in the tabloids. Did he do stupid stuff? He did and he owns it.

By the end of the book, I found that the story at shifted from a boy and his lonely grief to being a love letter. It is an achingly beautiful love letter to William. Such a complex relationship, as siblings often are. It is made much more complex in the fact that William's mindset is not relational but institutional. It is a love letter to his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. The Queen had a special love for Harry and he never doubted it. It is a love letter to his father, the King. He loves him and wishes he had chosen to protect him but he still loves him. It is a love letter to Diana in so many ways. It is a love letter to Meghan and his children, the reason he followed through in doing what Diana began decades ago. He is putting his family first. He is still loyal to the Crown and country, but he separated himself from the Institution in order to become the husband and father he is today. As the "spare" he has the option of becoming an independent person. And frankly, we Americans love him for it. And Meghan for helping him.

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