Book Review: Untamed

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

The Backstory

Sometime between seven and ten years ago, I discovered and followed Glennon Doyle’s (then Doyle Melton) blog. Her honest observations about mothering, being a wife and what its like to be a woman often made me laugh out loud. I found myself nodding in solidarity when she expressed anger or tearing up when she shared her fears—the same ones I had. I related to situations she shared and found her posts a refreshing change of pace.

In the summer of 2016 as Glennon continued to gain popular acclaim, I heard she’d be coming to a nearby high school that September to speak at a local mental health organization’s fall fundraiser. Ticket prices, I learned, included a signed copy of her then new book Love Warrior. I was excited to have the opportunity to hear Glennon speak and I would have purchased a copy of the book anyway. The book signing part was an added bonus, plus the event supported a camp that helps young kids who have been impacted by substance abuse in their families to build confidence and coping skills.

I arrived two hours beforehand, early enough to allow time to stand in a book signing line. The crowd gathered in the lobby, but most arrived within about a half hour of showtime to check out the silent auction and get snacks prior to the opening of the auditorium doors. I had expected to see a table with the author beside a small mountain of books happily signing and chatting with attendees. I thought it was a little weird that I saw neither. As time ticked by I wondered if they planned to do the signing as everyone left.

“Yeah, that makes more sense,” I thought, proving that my thoughts are occasionally um…flawed.

Finally, the auditorium doors opened. My ticket placed me a good distance from the stage near the back, but as I waited for the crowd to move through the aisles, a woman in an obvious rush stopped me and said, “I have to leave right now! Here’s two tickets near the front. Take them.”

Dumfounded, I thanked her and took the two. I headed down the aisle closer to the stage to find my newly acquired seats and realized that I, alone, held three tickets just minutes before the show was scheduled to begin. I needed to at least find someone to take the seat next to me. There wasn’t enough time to offload the single ticket in the back.

I scanned the crowd behind me to look for anyone who appeared to be sitting alone and spotted a young woman. Ticket in outstretched hand, I approached, quickly explained the situation and offered that she join me seated closer to the stage. At first the stranger looked skeptical but finding no reason to object she decided to join me.

When Glennon took the stage she started by saying, “You guys,” in the personal way she speaks like a friend who chats with you around the kitchen table. Requesting forgiveness, she launched into an explanation about how the FedEx delivery for the event got misrouted, so the promised books were in some other city! I cringed for her imagining how awful that must have been to have to announce. Not her fault. Still, she promised that the books would be shipped to everyone who’d purchased a ticket on a one-ticket-to-one-book basis and we’d need to check our email to confirm shipping addresses. To the credit of her “people,” I had a signed copy of her book in hand inside of one week.

Glennon covered a myriad of topics that evening including her struggle with bulimia, her alcohol and drug addictions, her first and unexpected pregnancy, her church, her kids, her marriage and more. I found her approach honest and real, and I was happy to have had the opportunity to see a person I’d come to admire through her blog.

That was then. These days, on any given day I have as many as ten books that I’m in the process of reading, plus magazines and online articles and I write a lot! I share this with you so you know how I came to anticipate reading Untamed when it became available at my library. In this case my choice for the “read” came in audiobook form read by the author. That way I could listen in my car and during lunch breaks at work.

Untamed: The Review

I do my best not to spill any significant, proverbial beans because I hate spoilers. While Untamed contains several sound bite keepers, my focus here is on two passages that rang true for me.

Why is everyone so gay?

One segment which struck a chord for me centered on the question: “Why is everyone so gay?” The anecdote Glennon relates is about a church engagement she had in which a woman in the audience (or congregation…I don’t know if it was at church or in a church) asked this question.

To clarify, the woman’s question (as I understood it) was her attempt to understand why so many people today are coming out as gay, or bi, pansexual or trans, or they want to be referred to in a specific way such as queer, or his/him, her/she, or them, and that there’s all this fluidity about gender identity and sexuality. In her answer, Glennon likened the phenomenon to two glasses of water. Her answer hits you with the logic stick.

In the past, she said, there have always been two glasses. A person had to fit in to one or the other; male or female, gay or straight. But it’s become apparent that there ought to be more glasses or maybe no glasses at all because people don’t necessarily fit into one or the other. Worse, forcing a person to fit into one or the other is unhealthy. Doing so may cause that person to be unable to fully live their best, most perfect life.

I’d add that continuing to live inauthentically inside such a glass can only lead to one of two results; to gradually wither and die, or by forcefully fitting the person it it eventually shatters he glass from the pressure. Either way that’s a detriment, a life lived in a state of suffering – cancer or a heart attack, disconnected or suicidal, going through the motions of life or lashing out at the world. I have noticed that gender identity and sexual preference issues are kind of smeared together like a group of preschoolers were let loose with finger paints on a roll of butcher paper. It’s as though gender identity and sexual preference are one in the same discussion. But in my opinion they are not. I think a combination of suppression, oppression, and the norms that society has dictated (the two glasses approach) have entangled these two separate topics.

Glennon goes into more depth about her family, her belief system, and societal expectations. The glass analogy just made sense to me.

Why do we hate on powerful women?

Glennon suggests the idea that our conditioning tells us to expect women to be quiet, to avoid self-promotion, etc. As women, we therefore do not support women who are confident, assertive, or powerful precisely because of our conditioning. But, when we force ourselves to take a beat to consider that we feel this way, we can make a point to change the way we react to those sorts of women. It’s then that we can become more powerful and confident. That’s the gist anyway. So I’m inspired to make it a point to be more aware of women who I at first find irritating and try to decide if it’s a conditioned response on my part. I think that’s the whole point of Untamed.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Four and a half stars!