Between reading (and re-reading) Karin Slaughter and several other airport-like reads, I managed to pick up Untamed. This book is crazily popular thanks to Adele’s recommendation which definitely intrigued me. ‘Will make your soul scream’ says Adele and a part of me went do I want that?
Before I jump into the review, I must clarify I don’t really read memoir-ish genres. Books that talk about self-help, channeling your inner whatnot, haven’t found their way to me. But am a voracious reader, I will read anything. I remember reading a painful book about trains during a long and boring holiday. So I decided why not Untamed? It does help that the title is what I often use to describe my hair.
It is difficult finding words to write ONE memoir yet Doyle has managed to fill three books about her life. What a rich and complicated tapestry (in the words of the wise Leslie Knope). Untamed is Doyle’s take on women long subdued by patriarchy. She bares her soul about recognizing that society and men have conditioned her, ruled her, and broken her. Doyle’s story has been a fascinating one. The former Christian blogger is now a lesbian. Her conflicting identity, evolving sense of self, and brutal honestly makes for a really good read. Like many women before her, she understands too late that she is the victim here.
Self-help memoirs can very easily cross the line to preachy, TEDx talk territory. Doyle in her quest to be authentic doesn’t preach, lecture, or even advise. She uses her story and her journey to indicate flaws. She constantly notes what held her back, from living her life as ‘Untamed.’ The fact that she was ‘tamed’ in the first place suggested that patriarchy, misogyny, and societal conditioning did push her down. Women across the world will identify with this, the incidents, the moments, and the memories where they were tampered with. They were ‘wild’, ’emotional’, ‘hyper’, and ‘cold.’ They needed to be controlled. There are cliches, powerful statements in the book that can feel like platitudes. They bog the book down, diluting its fervor and pulling it away from the narrative it could create.
These flaws are primarily because of Doyle and her identity. A privileged, middle-class white woman and her narrative of pain is much different from the reality and pain of women of color, minorities, and the LGBTQ community. Doyle recognizes her privilege in the book, accepts it, and understands it. But the examination and acceptance are superficial, to say the least. The idea of ‘Untaming’ is vastly different for women of color. Women of color, minorities, and LGBTQ communities have been consistently and systematically tamed by people in power and white people across the world. For them, untaming is a life-long process that goes beyond self-actualization and material wealth. Untaming in the true sense would be understanding your identity, empowering yourself to stand up, and building an ethos that reflects it. It is ironic considering that while Doyle is now a lesbian, the book firmly treads traditional ideas and beliefs about relationships and marriage.
Doyle’s Untamed, while a good read, and has interesting tidbits, manages to remain firmly in the self-help category for privileged white women. The advice about finding your true self, and channeling that self to reach your potential speaks to a specific audience. But if you want a light read, then you should definitely go for it.