Glennon Doyle’s autobiographical debut book, “Carry On, Warrior,” hit the shelves in 2013 and, among other things, chronicled her struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, abortion, bulimia, and Lyme disease.
Three years later, “Love Warrior” was published, recounting, with honesty and no-nonsense wisdom, Doyle’s beautiful but brutal journey of self-discovery after finding out her husband had cheated on her.
As it happens, Doyle’s third book – “Untamed” – is yet another memoir! But… why? What could have made Doyle revisit her life story for the third time in a decade? And should you bother? Indeed, you should! Get ready to find out why!
A few summers ago, Doyle – possibly the world’s most famous Christian mommy blogger – took out her daughters Tish and Amma to the zoo. After seeing a sign announcing something called “The Cheetah Run,” the family headed straight over to the cage mentioned in the advertisement.
It didn’t take long for a peppy zookeeper to introduce the crowd to Tabitha, the park’s resident cheetah. Born into captivity, Tabitha was raised ever since a baby alongside a Labrador named Minnie, so she had picked up a habit or two. Including the one advertised: for the next several minutes, the visitors of the zoo could watch Tabitha trying to catch a pink stuffed bunny tied to the tailgate of a jeep with a fraying rope. Her reward at the end: a delicious steak.
Watching Tabitha gnawing the steak, Doyle felt a little bit uneasy. The taming felt all too familiar to her. “Day after day, this wild animal chases dirty pink bunnies down the well-worn, narrow path they cleared for her,” she thought. “Never looking left or right. Never catching that damn bunny, settling instead for a store-bought steak and the distracted approval of sweaty strangers. Obeying the zookeeper’s every command, just like Minnie, the Lab she’s been trained to believe she is. Unaware that if she remembered her wildness – just for a moment – she could tear those zookeepers to shreds.”
During the Q&A session following the spectacle, a 9-year-old girl asked the zookeeper a touching question that seemed to echo Doyle’s thoughts: “Isn’t Tabitha sad? Doesn’t she miss the wild?” “No,” she answered. “Tabitha was born here. She doesn’t know any different. She’s never even seen the wild. This is a good life for Tabitha. She’s much safer here than she would be out in the wild.” But just then, Tabitha’s posture suddenly changed. She raised her head and started tracing the periphery, looking a lot more regal and a little scarier. Tish noticed the change and quietly whispered into her mother’s ear: “Mommy. She turned wild again.”
The zookeeper wasn’t wrong, either. Doyle feels that if Tabitha could talk, she would probably say something along these lines: “I should be grateful. I have a good enough life here. It’s crazy to long for what doesn’t even exist.” The reason why she is able to say this is that Tabitha is no different than most women. Especially not Doyle herself.
Both girls and boys are born feeling their lives in every limb, as poet William Wordsworth wrote once. There is a fire in their hearts, sparks in their eyes. And then they turn 10, and the world sits them down, tells them to be quiet and points its finger to their cages. “Ten is when we learn how to be good girls and real boys,” writes Doyle. “Ten is when children begin to hide who they are in order to become what the world expects them to be. Right around ten is when we begin to internalize our formal taming.”
On the surface, Doyle succeeded in internalizing the taming better than most. She became a very good girl – a beautiful, likable, thin, obedient Christian. At the age of 28, she married a good boy, former model Craig Melton, added his surname to her own, and raised with him three healthy and happy children: Chase, Tish, and Amma. In the meantime, she started a very popular blog called Momastery and became a heroine and role model for millions of women around the world – thanks to her honesty, no-nonsense wisdom, and traditional values. Not our words – but Oprah’s.
But beneath this fairytale, Doyle’s neatly packed life was gradually coming undone. After all, when you are someone sparkling with life on the inside and accept to spend it in an all-too-familiar cage, there may be some side-effects. “When I became a good girl,” Doyle remembers, “I also became a bulimic. None of us can hold our breath all the time. Bulimia was where I exhaled.”
Subsequently, the childhood bulimia morphed into alcoholism and drug use and kept Doyle numb until her first pregnancy at 26. That’s when she decided to get sober and come clean. Essentially, this is what her first memoir was all about: winning, against all odds, with the help of a loving husband, happy children, and a great church.
The ink of the debut book hadn’t dried yet when her husband Craig told her a sentence many women dread to hear: “There have been other women.” Doyle remembers the immediate aftermath: “I sat in the driver’s seat for a while and realized that the revelation of my husband’s betrayal did not leave me feeling the despair of a wife with a broken heart. I was feeling the rage of a writer with a broken plot.”
Divorce was never a part of God’s plans. Moreover, Craig was a good dad. Her husband may have messed up the second act of the story, but maybe there was something she could do to salvage the happy end? She found herself typing into her Google search bar: “What should I do if my husband is a cheater but also an amazing dad?” Soon enough, she found an answer: she’ll fight through this as well. “It will be okay,” Doyle started thinking. “I’ll tell how the cheating led to my self-reflection, how self-reflection led to forgiveness and pain led to redemption. I’ll tell it so that people will decide: Of course. It was leading to this ending all along. I see. It all had to happen exactly that way. That is what I will decide, too.” The result was “Love Warrior,” Doyle’s second memoir.
“Love Warrior” was meant to tell the story everybody wanted to hear from a loving Christian wife – “the story of the dramatic destruction and painstaking reconstruction of [a] family.” In the month leading to its publication, the hype had already made the memoir one of the biggest books of the year. Doyle’s fans were counting the days until the book went on sale. The publisher had announced a first print run of 150,000 copies. Most importantly, the book was about to be named an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
Doyle felt a bit uneasy during the extensive promotional tour. Naturally, she couldn’t put her finger on it at the time, but in retrospect, one would not be far off in guessing that it had something to do with the cage and the wilderness. And then, at Chicago’s Palmer Hotel, it happened: the event that abruptly changed her beliefs, her worldview, her life, and everything else.
At a dinner with a few other authors scheduled to promote their books at a national book conference, she noticed someone who, in her eyes, instantly took up the entire doorway, the entire room, the entire universe. Her whole being said: “there she is.” She was Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a World Cup champion, and a former captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
It was neither a good time, nor precisely a good fit: both Doyle and Wambach were experiencing difficulties in their marriages, and, moreover, they lived on two different sides of the United States. Yet, the sparks were there, and they wouldn’t go away. They started writing letters to each other, and, after a while, it was obvious they had a lot in common – and that they made each other happy. Wambach divorced, and Doyle decided to risk it all: one day, she told Craig that she had met someone else and that she was leaving.
Doyle’s publishers were in panic mode. They advised her to keep her secret for a few months more. After all, how could she promote a book about the struggles of saving a marriage after infidelity, to crowds of Christian believers, amid a divorce due to a homosexual love affair? Doyle, nevertheless, was done with lies and chose the thornier path. It was lying that got her into the mess: it was time for honesty – real honesty – to get her out of it.
The reaction wasn’t what she expected: her fans understood her and were more than supportive. “Love Warrior” was still a success – it’s just that the promotional events were now slightly different. Even her mother, who believed at first that her daughter was making a mistake, eventually had to admit that the new relationship brought life back into Doyle’s being. This became especially obvious after she and Wambach married in May 2017. Before and after, Craig kept being an amazing dad, and the children had no problems accepting Wambach as a “bonus mother.”
Some church leaders had considerable issues doing the same, and there were even such that excommunicated Doyle from organizations she wasn’t even a member of. They were too late: Doyle had already “excommunicated” herself from the notion of organized religion, if not religion in general. “I don’t know if I call myself a Christian anymore,” she writes. “[Even so,] I remain compelled by the Jesus story. Not as history meant to reveal what happened long ago, but as poetry meant to illuminate a revolutionary idea powerful enough to heal and free humanity now.”
Throughout “Untamed,” Doyle shares numerous similar ideas of her own. Four of these she refers to as keys to the cage of the cheetah: feel it all, be still and know, dare to imagine, and build and burn. Essentially, they boil down to this. We are all humans in the process of perpetual becoming. No pain is final. Imagine yourself past it and allow your heart to feel it all through – both the pain and the potential future. Because only after a crucifixion, you will be able to truly resurrect yourself.
Much more a self-help book than a memoir, “Untamed” skips left and right through different chapters of Doyle’s life with resoluteness, honesty, and love.
Doyle made a name for herself by wearing her heart on her sleeve, and even now, when she reveals that it was all a show, she seems to come out of the narrative unscathed – possibly because we can understand the nature of her earlier untruthfulness (after all, she was lying to herself as well), and almost certainly because we can’t help but applaud her for the newfound bravery.
And because, in the end, many of us are no different than Doyle’s past self, while hoping to someday escape our cages and attain her new identity. Well, here’s a book that might inspire you to finally do that.
Pleasing the world is impossible. So, learn how to please yourself instead.
Glennon Doyle is a bestselling American author. She is also the creator of the online community Momastery and the founder of the nonprofit organization Together Rising. All of her three books – “Carry On, Warrior,” “Love... (Read more)
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