There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.
For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.
Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.
Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get. (Amazon)
Recently, I had joined a book club discord chat where the first read was Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I’ll admit – I knew nothing about this book, but I knew there was quite a lot of hype around it. It’s one of those books that seems to garner nothing but praise. After finding out it was a memoir with a bit of self-help book vibes, I was eager to start reading. As much as I love a good self-improvement binge, I, unfortunately, did not like this book.
Let’s start by talking about the overall structure of the book. The book is split into three parts, with parts one and two taking up the first 100 pages, and the final part taking up the majority of the book. While I wish the divisions of the book were a bit more even, the flow of the book made sense with the length of the sections. However, the sections themselves seemed a bit all over the place.
Memoirs and self-improvement books that I’ve read typically are filled with anecdotes that relate to a Bigger Picture. That wasn’t necessarily the case with Doyle’s book, though. Every minuscule chapter had some kind of anecdote, and while many of them connected, the order and meanings of these chapters were a little disorganized. A lot of the chapters connect to Doyle’s story of discovering her sexuality as well as her “Knowing”, but others seem to be one-off lessons that, while nice to hear, just feel out of place.
One section had an entire piece on learning about dealing with your own internal racism as a white woman. Now, I actually thought this was an important chapter for white women to internalize, but it just seemed to be stuck in the middle of the book without much of a reason. It didn’t connect to the greater story but instead felt like a footnote that went on for a long time. I’m not saying this to disregard the content, but to critique its place in the context of the story. There were parts of this chapter that felt very scripted and inorganic. While I know that this is a written work that has been through multiple rounds of editing and is therefore not organic in itself, I couldn’t shake the stiff wording that almost sounded like they were quotes from somewhere else. For me, it took away from the points being made because they sounded less genuine. This was definitely a theme that continued throughout Doyle’s work.
In many chapters, we see quotes of dialogue as part of the mentioned anecdotal structure. Once again, I understand that these are not direct, organic quotes. However, they read as scripted and stiff. It was almost as if Doyle herself wanted to sound like a self-help book in her conversations. It really took me out of the story and deprived me of resonating with otherwise impactful writing.
This book wasn’t all bad, though. The story of Doyle’s sexuality and personhood in the midst of trying to fit into cultural and societal pressures is all too relatable. Most people who have been raised as women can relate to pieces of her story. Reading about a woman breaking free of those expectations weighing her down is freeing. Additionally, I really enjoyed all the chapters involving Doyle’s daughter, Tish. I could read a whole book about Tish’s outlook on life. I loved hearing about this confident daughter who feels her emotions and is unashamed of them. We need more of that mindset.
Overall, this wasn’t my favorite book, but it still has some value. It’s been pointed out to me that how someone has been raised definitely affects their perceptions of this book. I personally had already come to some of the conclusions that Doyle was realizing; however, I had an open-minded, liberal upbringing where I didn’t feel as much intense pressure to confine to societal expectations. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to them. I can see the value in discussing these breakthroughs and I believe that we should discuss them. That being said, this just wasn’t my cup of tea.
If you want a book that will empower you to defy expectations and look within yourself instead of society, though, then this is definitely the book for you.