Book Reviews

A Review: Untamed


Well… not sure where to start.

I’ll start with, I was really excited to read this book. The premise of this memoir is reason to pick it up. Writer and women’s activist, Glennon Doyle, forgives her husband’s infidelity only to fall in love with her now-wife at first sight. She tells of blended families, setting boundaries, unleashing her wild and finding her Knowing. It’s a story of brokeness that isn’t broken to unleash your truest self. Controversial subjects like porn, spirituality, racism, and feminism, are blended with parenting, relationships, soccer moms, and American Royalty.

It is also a story of how the author is better than the reader.

I am on a quest to read one memoir a month this year. I picked this up because of the rave reviews and the Reese’s Book Club sticker. I don’t understand the appeal.

If this book was marketed as a self-help book from a speaker/activist, it would have made more sense. I don’t love self-help and would have put this book down at about the 20% complete mark, but I persisted. I read reviews that guaranteed the slow middle got better.

In fairness. It did. But I had to wait for the last 10% of the book. It got so frustrating that I was counting words in soliloquies instead of absorbing the content. Not a good sign.

Here is a list of the top 10 things Glennon is better at than me (plus a bonus):
1. Parenting.
2. Spirituality.
3. Understanding Self.
4. Being a Co-Worker.
5. Friendship.
6. Being White.
7. Being Gay (In fairness, I’m not gay so she has me there, but if I were, I would be doing it wrong.)
8. Being a Philanthropist.
9. Being a Partner.
10. Being Woke.
11. Writing. Yet, she claims to have to google the word ‘petition’ because, and I quote. “Hard word.” I don’t buy it, Glennon. You are a better writer, own it.

If she had discovered all these enlightening things by taking the reader on a journey starting with her flaws, I could get behind her. As she penned in the book, a fan came to a speaking engagement and said, “…I used to love your writing so much. When you talked about your pain and how hard life was, I felt so comforted. But lately, with your new life, you seem different. I have to be honest: I am finding you harder and harder to relate to.” Exactly. No one wants to read about someone else’s perfect life. We want to relate to the journey of coming out of an imperfect situation and finding the moral of the story. Glennon robbed us of the experience of finding her ‘why’ because she was too busy telling us.

My favourite parts to dislike:
1. She spent 306 words of one-sided dialogue telling her friend about how she should parent her son who might have been watching porn.
2. She spent 240 words of one-sided dialogue telling her daughter, Tish, the definition of bravery. Tish was a teenager. I doubt she listened past 20 words which totally makes sense why there was no return dialogue.
3. She name-dropped Oprah – Twice!
4. She claimed to not know her daughter’s age. Not in the moment (which happens to many parents when put on the spot), but as a statement. “…phase that comes after crawling but before college.”
5. She ‘improved’ a Steinbeck quote. Ugh.
6. She tells friends to skip Botox but used Botox.
7. The entire chapter where she told us how her wife was in awe of her, even saying “Wow,” on many occasions. I think it was, “Wow. You think a lot of yourself.” But, she didn’t print the last part.
8. The aforementioned ‘hard word’ to spell. Hey, I look up easy words loads of times, but I know they are easy and I’m just having a brain fart.
9. This quote felt like too much irony to not include: “Good art originates not from desire to show off but from the desire to show yourself.”

And with every bad review, there are good bits. I really loved the opening scene. The love story felt authentic (with her wife, but also between her and her daughter, Tish). She does have a lot of insight–it was her approach at telling us her insight instead of how she learned it, that I took issue with.

Glennon quoted Maya Angelou (through Oprah Winfrey) in the book and I wish she would have read the quote first. “Modesty is a learned affectation. You don’t want modesty you want humility. Humility comes from inside out.” There was no evidence of humility in this book. Nothing humble was evident about Glennon. Her premise was that you should not pretend to be less than who you are. No one wants that for her or wants to read that. Readers want to discover HOW she found her enlightenment. We don’t want to judge her for it, belittle its impact on her life, be anything but supportive and learn. Humility requires you to listen to others and hear what they are saying. Your readers are saying ‘show us.’

If this was Glennon’s first manuscript, it would guess it would not have been published as a memoir. If you want a self-help book with a smattering of stories, this might be your jam. If you want a great memoir, put the book down, and move on.

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