The title –and adjective– applies to both the cat and the book in this picture, but I’ll focus on the latter, written by Glennon Doyle (The Dial Press). A couple of weeks ago, catching up with a dear friend, Untamed came up during the conversation and I was so happy to learn that someone I know had read it! I encourage everyone, especially women, to read it; not as a mere guide or a(nother) role model to follow, but for inspiration and as a motivational pep talk. The other day, I reread a passage that deeply clicked with me when I first read the book from cover to cover. And yes, it klicked again!
I first heard about the book —and its author— listening to the goop podcast, which I do on a regular basis (mostly in the kitchen, while I cook), back in March (2020), more specifically the episode ‘When You Quit Being Good’, in which Doyle is invited to join the brilliant Elise Loehnen for an in-depth conversation. Untamed was to be released the following week and I preordered my copy immediately after listening to the podcast; the energy and the positivity were highly contagious and perceived even from the other side of the Atlantic!
Delicacy with the rough
Untamed is the brave story about Doyle’s personal journey and self-healing, in which she is completely honest about her flaws and less attractive sides to her character. It’s quite an achievement to be able to deal with important —and delicate— topics (gender roles, education, addiction, racism, marriage, bulimia, mental illness, religion…) with a large portion of self-criticism and empathy, always putting the emphasis on strength, courage and respect — for others, but mainly for oneself.
Doyle frees herself from the deeply rooted belief that the purpose, the meaning of her life is to sacrifice herself for her children and instead chooses to life fully, converting herself into an example, a role model for her children to follow. More orthodox family structures are shattered and new, more flexible, more tolerant, constellations emerge. Facades are torn before the priority to give space to each and every family member’s personality and needs.
A literary cheerleader
Some parts of the book will move you deeply, others (in my case) can feel too close to the verge of becoming self-indulgent, with its slightly too well composed and even polished anecdotes and dialogues; Doyle is such a great storyteller! You can almost sense her enthusiasm seeping through the text, as if she too gets carried away with her own story and wishes to be present, see for herself whether she’s managed to capture your interest. I can’t help visualising a small Doyle avatar jumping between the text lines like an overexcited literary cheerleader!
In a memoir the author’s implication and openness are vital and to avoid cracks in the emphatic connection with the reader, the style should never be perceived as too edited or perfect. The polished language and maturity that Doyle’s children express can probably, at a certain extent, derive from cultural differences between the United States and Europe; I suspect that American readers don’t raise their eyebrows at some parts of the text’s settings, mainly dialogues and quotations, but this is of course a strictly personal observation.
The language, the style and the tone used in the book are most surely a challenge for translators. What may sound intimate and familiar in American English could easily be interpreted as shallow and superficial in a literal translation and the underlying, profound message from the author should not get lost… in translation!
Shallow or not, the author is the living proof of the fact that it’s always possible to make game changing decisions and live by them, no matter the obstacles. And when it comes to real darkness… she’s been there and she managed to emerge, a fact that adds important authenticity to her story.
We can do hard things
Many of the challenges we face in today’s society are covered and very well treated in the book, making Untamed the ideal reminder of the importance of pressing the pause button and reflect on our roles and social patterns — and how we pass these on to our children.
Curious facts about Untamed
- Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author and friend of Doyle’s, gave feedback at an early stage of Untamed and suggested a change of tone for a more intimate connection with the reader
- The book has an opening line that is hard to beat: “Four years ago, married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” (Who doesn’t continue reading after that??)
- The author is currently married to American former soccer star Abby Wambach.
- Glennon Doyle has raised over $25 million for families, women and children in crisis through her nonprofit Together Rising.
- Untamed was picked by Reese Witherspoon for her Book Club Hello Sunshine.
- Untamed is Doyle’s third biography and she’s only 44 years old…
Life is hard; friends need to be safe places for each other.Glennon Doyle