Feb 12, 2021

The Weeknight Book Club: 'Untamed' - Glennon Doyle.


Part memoir, part confession, part tale of caution and part wake up call.

For all of us who try to please, to pretend, to un-see, to fit in at all costs....

'Untamed' is mostly my kind of memoir.  The kind best read (or listened to, thank you author narrated Audible editions) at leisure through the prism of your own experience.  It's tone is 2020s tongue in cheek, keeping it real.  It covers a lot of territory from life defining to lifestyle defined.

In this memoir, Doyle takes us into her thoughts as the world she so carefully constructed after decades of substance abuse and eating disorders found her pregnant, sober, a strong Christian and happily married.  Or so she thought.

'Untamed' opens with a vignette about Doyle and her family visiting the zoo and witnessing the behaviour of a cheetah raised in captivity who finds her wild and true self.  Effectively 'untaming' herself.

Doyle's work encompasses so much more than the obvious (to me) reference to Helen Reddy's defining, empowering and joyous lyric, 'I am woman, hear me roar'.  

Not only can we as women roar but we can and will roar with feeling.  Feelings of pain, of sadness, of disappointment and frustration.  Because feeling is not only about happiness and our life's journey not only about the pursuit of the happy and the pretty.  We become our true selves through our survival and refining of painful experiences.

Doyle's evolved relationship with life's pain began when she understood the reasons behind her dual addictions to food and alcohol.  Bulimia was her private, all encompassing behaviour that rendered her body and mind too weak and distracted to acknowledge any potential pain in her life.  Alcohol, on the other hand, enabled her to block out pain as she lived, 'half alive' in the real world.  Conveniently, alcohol also effectively ended any relationship she herself was too afraid to end.

Doyle's success as an author came after she discovered sobriety and discussed her life as a practicing Christian, wife and mother.  The fairytale story of redemption and a glittering, wholesome new life was the bread and butter of her glittering career as an author.  And then that life was no more.  Doyle's marriage ended, she met the love of her life.  The new, same sex relationship threatened everything she had fought so hard for. But it also freed her and gave her life.

The topics Doyle explores in 'Untamed' are seemingly disparate but sewn together by the thread of beautiful, relatable and powerful writing. 

I had no choice but to raise my hand in solidarity during the discussion about how texting is better than phoning one's friends but it's a minefield afterward regarding how to interpret your friend's delay or lack of a text back.  

I cried ugly tears as we shared, as readers and listeners, those final moments spent with a beloved grandmother as an equally beloved mother looked on.  That death was part of the cycle of life between generations.  That it would be repeated until the end of time.  That, in the end, it's not the right word with which we say goodbye but with the touching.  Of things and of shared memories.

It has been interesting reading the reviews of 'Untamed' because they also picked up on the 'rich white woman' energy that I, as a 'first generation Chinese migrant living a kind of rich white woman life' also felt.  'Untamed' is both a call to arms for the said demographic but also a bit of a Pinterest board for the said white womens' must pin that for later catalogue of thoughts. 

There are many, many strong and thought provoking chapters that will inspire those that think to then act in the world around them but there are also sections that encourage our complacency with nebulous ambitions to 'be brave' and 'dream'.  There are chapters that almost Instagram-worthy in their studied, keeping it real with a side of casual name dropping tone.  The first person that Doyle reveals her new love to is none other than her dear friend Liz (they became friends after confessing a mutual love of each other's work).  Elizabeth Gilbert, to you and I.  At a beach house in Florida. 

I've enjoyed listening to 'Untamed' and the way it bounces energetically (presumably in its activewear) between being thought provoking and a bit clumsy.  It's given me an insight into life experiences foreign to my own but it has then brought me back to the familiar world of Instagram womanhood.  I've been forced to take a long hard look at myself and reflect on my own relationship with devices, the media's gold standard for womanhood and the way I parent.

Perhaps the true strength of this book is the ability to make its readers recognize for themselves the unevenness of this book in its capacity of delivering inspiration and the desire to be better on the one hand and the relative fluffiness on the other.  For many of us, real life is like that.  A rapid cycle between the rigors of deep thought and reflection and then some lazier times scrolling through eye candy and click bait.

Have you read 'Untamed'?  

Loving some of it and leaving some if it like me? 

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