I have so many disparate thoughts surrounding this book, but one very solid thought about the book itself. So, the TL;DR version is: it's excellent. If you're a hellbent for leather "Republican", stay away from it; you won't enjoy it and it will probably do terrible things for your blood pressure, in much the same way as any new or conflicting idea of your world view might. Rational conservatives, those with the ability to think their own thoughts and make up their own minds - and gasp - I'm one of those!, will find this woman to be the dignified, thoughtful, intelligent woman and class act that she is, even if, maybe, you may not agree with everything she advocates (though really, she doesn't advocate anything any normal human wouldn't). Liberals, it goes without saying, have favourable odds of loving the hell out of this memoir of our First Lady.
That was, for me, a pretty provocative opening statement; I generally try to maintain a somewhat neutral facade here, though I'll never deny my personal truths. I just don't feel it's necessary to wave them like a flag. But - and this is relevant, so stay with me - my defences are low at the moment and I'm so damned tired of everybody's anger being channeled into tribalism. "Liberals" pointing fingers at "Conservatives" and tearing strips off the whole lot, tarring them all with the same brush, and "Conservatives" ... when they're not tearing a strip off the "Liberals" and tarring them with the same brush, they're actively letting their inner child out, gleefully being petty and sniggering as they throw mud. Bunch of damn fools, the entire dammed lot, and honestly, they all deserve one another.
As I said before, I am conservatively bent; I am not deficit inclined, nor am I inclined to embrace a lot of government in general (though there are exceptions - hello banking industry; you, you aren't to be trusted with so much as a plugged nickel). Neither am I a racist, a bigot, nor an elitist. I don't hate, nor do I deny poor people; their existence or their right to make a better life. Anyone who knows me knows all of this, yet I don't think I'm ever getting the tar out of my hair. I believe in diversity in all things, even diverse opinions. Even the ones I don't like*.
Now, this is how I make all that relevant - Michelle Obama has written a book that succeeds, and is brilliant, because she does not fling mud; she does not tar anybody**; she writes about her thoughts, her beliefs, her values, her opinions, without ever once throwing judgements on anyone else's. She does not build herself up by tearing down others, and here I think it's important to point out that she's not Suzy Sunshine and there aren't any unicorns flying out her backside. I found what she didn't say to be as provocative as what she does say is not; moments when she chooses her words carefully, and where, in my opinion, she manages to convey that which perhaps she feels she can't say. Though I admit, that might be wishful thinking on my part.
I've always admired President Obama; from the first he struck me as thoughtful, intelligent, and well-balanced with very little ego (or one that thrived on power, anyway), but at the beginning, Michelle was a bit of a non-entity to me. Mostly because I've never gotten into what any First Lady was doing; she's not in office, has no public mandate, and is therefore of little interest to me. But Michelle caught my attention with the organic vegetable garden - an initiative I was thrilled to watch unfold and succeed. I still paid little attention, but every time she appeared on my radar, it was because she was doing something impressive, and doing it with dignity and grace. By the time his second term ended, I was sorry to see them both go, and I was eager to read this book when it came out, to learn more about this woman who has never done anything but impress me.
A little part of my soul died when she stated for the record her complete disinterest in public office, because these are the kind of people I want running my country. NOT because of their politics - I like both of them, but their politics are not entirely mine - but because of the people they are. I don't have to agree with everything my leader does, but I do have to be able to respect him (or her) and their dedication to the process of doing what's best for the people - all the people - of the country. The Obamas set - or reset - the standard for the highest office in the nation, repairing the damage wrought by so many previous administrations. To bring this back to the book - Becoming gives readers an insight into just how deeply invested they both were - but especially Michelle, since this is her story - in making the most of the incredible opportunities they were given to make positive, lasting change for as many people as they could, while keeping their family not just in tact, but healthy, thriving and close.
A note about her narration: I'm not going to gush, because the truth is that it was apparent that she was told to read slowly and exactly off the manuscript, which is fair enough. But I sort of wish she'd have been confident enough to read it in the voice she obviously wrote it in; occasionally that voice would sneak through just enough that I just knew, had she been able to be totally herself, it would have kicked the narration up a notch into absolute perfection. But that's not a criticism - she did a phenomenal job and for anyone interested in this book who can do audiobooks, I'd highly recommend it, as I think it adds depth to hear her tell her own story.
* Except the current idiot squatting in the White House; he opens his mouth and nothing but methane comes out.
** I loved, loved that the one time Michelle comes close to tarring anyone, it's for the one person who most truly and objectively deserves it.