Great thoughts couched in personal narrative.
It’s hard for me to separate how I feel about Untamed as a reviewer and how I feel about its place in my life. I picked it up at just the right time, when life was swirling into a deep eddy of chaos and uncertainty. I needed help, and there are gems of wisdom in Untamed, without question. Sometimes Glennon Doyle’s words helped.
The format of the book is perfect if you’re low on time – brief anecdotes chained together to make a certain point, or intended (I believe) to lead to certain kinds of reflection. And that’s really central to the book’s strength – bite-sized, sparkling thoughts to get you moving forward on doing your own work, on your own self, on your own mind. Doyle is supremely quotable. A quick search on Pinterest will net you hundreds of quotes, often lovingly calligraphed. Those quotes can be a lifeline to some who are searching. Occasionally, they end up in my journal, as they can be the perfect reminder of another, better way to be.
Roxane Gay reviewed this book on Goodreads, simply stating “I’m not the target audience for this book, but I am glad she found her path and a loving partner.” I get that. I’m not her audience, either. I’m not from a comfortable background, my struggles leave me closer to the bottom than hers, and that’s no judgement of her or self-aggrandizement of myself. I was also raised a secular humanist, and her background is in Christian self-help.
She and I both share privilege – we are both white women – but, frankly, I have a lot less. There’s an ease that some folks in the self-help business have that speaks to a lack of devastation. You can tell they’ve not really seen poverty, really seen violence or the protracted chaos of underserved mental and physical health needs. Glennon Doyle has this. I’m not knocking her struggle – we all have them, and our struggles are unique to ourselves. We shouldn’t compare. Sometimes, however, she just leans into middle/upper class WASP, and she cannot, for the life of her, REALLY see it, at least not in the narrative she uses to describe her life. To be fair, she does acknowledge her own privilege in the course of writing this book, but she doesn’t ever follow through on it. At least in the scope of this book, she doesn’t really get into the meat of why her perspective might have deep limitations.
When you read reviews for Untamed on Goodreads, many of them excoriate Doyle. A lot of them point to this blind privilege to discount the book as sanctimonious, but I think they, too miss the point. At its best, Untamed is an open exploration of one woman’s struggle. One response to Ms. Gay’s review suggested the book was for the Lululemon set, and I think there is truth to this, but at the same time, it’s not the whole truth. Doyle recounts finding her place in the sun by letting go of that need that we – especially women – have to judge or be receptive of judging. By deciding to just be who she is, she’s stepped away from the role she’s expected to play. She’s stepped free of the game, and at her best, her writing encourages others to do so as well.
So while Untamed might not be on my “favorites shelf” for the year, it’s earned it’s place as a recommendation. There’s peace to be found in her words, if you’re path approaches hers.