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Book Review: “Unbridled” — Like “Eat, Pray, Love,” But Not Annoying May 21, 2013

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews, solo travel.
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McNally, Barbara. Unbridled. A Memoir. Balboa Press, 2013.

I totally want to go to Ireland. I totally want to make sandwiches for underprivileged girls. I totally do not want to take burlesque dancing lessons. I totally want to re-read Unbridled.

What it’s about:

Essentially, the book is about a woman, our narrator, who tries in self-destructive ways to get out of her suburban marriage-with-kids life. No offense to the suburbs, or marriage, or kids, but she feels that somewhere in the whole combo, she lost herself. So she rips herself free into singledom (I won’t tell you how), leaving behind a tangled mess of family and feelings that she regrets but cannot repair, at least not at that time. She embarks on a journey of self-seeking to Ireland and Jamaica which (spoiler alert?) ultimately allows her to return home and reconnect with her daughters.  Then she gets semi-naked and dances at a hospital.

Why It’s Less Annoying than Eat, Pray, Love:

Does story of a quest for personal fulfillment via travel sound familiar? Unless you’ve been living under a literary rock for the past few years, you’ll recognize this book as possibly capitalizing on the whole Eat Pray Love phenomenon.  Now, I happen to hate very much on Eat Pray Love, so I was worried that I would be equally annoyed with this book.  But no. I read it in three sittings (or lie-ings, if you count the bathtub).

First, McNally isn’t spoiled. She doesn’t have a zillion-dollar book contract to fund her journey. She pays and budgets like one does on a real trip. Second, she isn’t vain. Not once do we hear a man gushing about how beautiful she is (although don’t think that means we don’t see a good deal of carefully wrought sex in the book). Third, she acknowledges that she is leaving behind some serious responsibilities, especially her daughters, and this weighs on her. Her love affair–with a falconer on the grounds of an Irish castle nonetheless–isn’t claustrophobic and the culmination of her journey, as if single is ok as long as in the end you couple up. Rather, McNally leaves her lovely falconer after one day and moves on, not without regrets but also happy to be continuing her journey as a free, single woman. All this is totally opposite of EPL. So we can thank the EPL phenomenon for opening up the market to books that are actually–in my opinion–better in many ways than EPL.

“I held the meat gingerly and stretched my arm out like a branch. A very nervous branch.” (88, on feeding a falcon)


The tone of the book isn’t as easy and woman’s-magaziney as EPL. In order for you to really get maximum enjoyment from it, you have to be the kind of person who likes to read description. If you are a reader who takes time to imagine the descriptions of green hills and little bustling pubs and the endless lawns splayed around a very old castle, then you will be blown away. Especially by the six-fingered Wiccan who approaches McNally in the dark with a hood covering her face (to her credit, McNally doesn’t scream and faint, as I would have certainly done).

The Ultimate Onely Experience:

McNally goes to the Hedo resort in Jamaica, a clothing-optional resort especially geared toward swinging couples. I was proud of her for going alone, even though a man she was dating had offered to accompany her. She explores just how hedonistic (read: naked and kissing beautiful Jamaican woman) she wants to be–does she want to be like her wild, fearless Grandma Pat, or does she actually have more of her staid, religious, conservative mother inside her than she realizes?  In the end she realizes it doesn’t matter–through sheer chance she ends up somewhere in Jamaica where she learns that real adventure and self-fulfillment comes from helping others–in this case, abused girls shut up in a fenced-in school to protect them from (among other things) the rapists outside. Read the book to find out about the touching fieldtrip.

“I danced until I thought I’d melt from the heat of bopping bodies.” (171, a party at Hedo)

Marsha moved her chair closer to mine. . . ‘You remind me of my mama,’ she said softly. (196, at a girls’ home fenced in to keep out–for one thing–rapists)

Back home:

McNally is home and is reconnecting with her daughters–who are calmer now about the divore and look older, even though she hasn’t been gone long. But she keeps looking for extra tidbits inside herself she didn’t know about. For instance, she didn’t know she could dance half-naked with feathers and fishnets in front of sick people, but she does it.

I wore leather chaps and a sequined vest. (231, prepping for a hospital dance show)


The stories should shake up anyone who thinks that they know the boundaries of themselves. The stories teach us that none of us knows our boundaries.

And that is the main reason I enjoyed this book. Though you will never, ever see me in leather chaps.


Now, I’m going to harp on a small thing as I have in previous reviews. The cover feels sort of funny, like an odd kind of fuzziness. I don’t really like the texture and wonder if I should wrap it in paper like we did with our school textbooks, in preparation for my second readthrough.



1. Onely.org Reviews 'Unbridled: A Memoir' | Barbara McNally - May 23, 2013

[…] View the original review at Onely.org […]

2. barbaramcnally - May 23, 2013

Thank you so much for reading and reviewing ‘Unbridled’!

Onely - June 6, 2013

You’re very welcome! = )

3. Stella - May 27, 2013

Huh. Well, ok if you recommend it I’m gonna get a copy and see what I think now I am well prepared to slow down and enjoy the descriptions. . . .

Onely - June 6, 2013

Let me know what you think!

4. www.suritravel-peru.com - June 6, 2014

YouTube is world’s biggest video sharing website,not one can defeat it. Every one upload movies at YouTube afterward obtain embed code and post anyplace.

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