My book club decided to read Untamed (2020) by Glennon Doyle. It’s been on the New York Times Bestseller List and has over 4.5 stars on Amazon. It is a memoir discussing Doyle’s life and most recent struggles. My book club had mixed responses, trending toward the negative. I came from a slightly different perspective as I was the only one in our book club who had read Doyle’s earlier memoir, Love Warrior. I have mixed feelings about both of these books.
I’d like to start with the positive. As discussed in her book, and according to Wikipedia, Doyle is the founder of a non-profit, Together Rising, that has raised over $25 million for people in need. That’s awesome. I also found Untamed to be interesting and easy to read. She hits on most of the hot-button political issues of today with a liberal bent similar to mine (although I am not religious) and defends her views with reasoned compassion.
She includes a number of well-written and interesting stories about her life. These include when she fell in love with Abby Wambach, the dismantling of her marriage, problems she’s had with her children, and earlier issues she’s had with bulimia and alcoholism (that she also discusses in Love Warrior). At times, I felt that she was remarkably open and honest about herself, like when she cheated to become prom queen in high school. In addition, her take on racism and her own racism was memorable and shifted my perspective a little.
Here is an Amazon blurb on Untamed: “In her most revealing and powerful memoir yet, the activist, speaker, bestselling author, and ‘patron saint of female empowerment’ (People) explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet others’ expectations and start trusting the voice deep within us.”
I have to admit, this doesn’t resonate with me. I am all about female empowerment and defying the limits of the patriarchal system. However, I’ve never really felt like I was striving to meet others’ expectations, and I think life is a lot more complicated than a voice inside us that will bring us joy and peace.
It seems that Doyle was hemmed in by expectations ever since she was a little kid. We grew up at similar times; she’s only three years older than me. So, maybe it was her family, her religious community, or her own personality that made her feel so confined and unhappy. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a little girl who likes other girls to grow up in a religious community where that is simply unacceptable. How she would try to conform and be the best in everything else to make up for what she knew was wrong with her. I could definitely understand how that little girl could be in denial about who she was until she was grown-up and could understand her needs better. Of course, I have no idea if this is how Doyle ever felt. I’m only hypothesizing. Doyle only discusses falling in love with Abby the first time she sees her. She does not mention ever liking any other women or her sexual orientation. My impression is that this is a topic that makes Doyle uncomfortable discussing in detail. With Untamed being a bestseller in “Christian self-help,” she may be wary of alienating her audience.
My main problem with this book, though, is that it sometimes felt too sweet, like an after school special with notable lessons to be learned. I feel that Doyle chooses an inspiring narrative and then fits her story into that mold. In Love Warrior, she valiantly fought to save her marriage after her husband’s betrayal. In Untamed, it’s freeing herself (and all women) from society’s expectations by teaching them to listen to what they want. It could feel preachy and a little overdone at times. Sometimes it felt like Doyle was being brutally honest, but other times, it felt like she was simply skillfully defending her own choices in life.
You can find all my reviews on my blog.