74 pages 2 hours read

Glennon Doyle (Melton)


Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2020

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Summary and Study Guide


Published in 2020, Glennon Doyle’s Untamed is her third memoir. An accomplished writer, philanthropist, and activist, Doyle documents her lifelong journey of self-discovery and uses personal experiences to encourage women on their own respective journeys towards freedom. Through the intersections of gender, sexuality, religion, and race, Doyle unpacks the social conditioning that affects the lives of all humans, particularly women. Ultimately, Doyle offers a reflective guide to navigating life by looking internally and honoring one’s unique instinct, which she deems the “Knowing.”

In her Prologue, Doyle begins with a retelling of a visit to a zoo with her wife and two young daughters. The family encounters a cheetah named Tabitha whose handlers showcase her tamed wild instincts by having her chase a stuffed bunny tied to the back of a truck. The cheetah’s captivity resonates with Doyle, who reflects on her own captivity as a woman restricted by society’s conditioning. She imagines Tabitha reflecting on her lost sense of wildness and affirms that, despite Tabitha’s current captive state, she is still wild.

Doyle further explores her own captivity as a woman in Part 1, which she titles “Caged.” Through a series of vignettes, Doyle describes the various ways she has felt caged throughout her life and the social conditioning she has personally experienced. She documents the Christian warnings against the desires of Eve, her therapist’s recommendation to improve her sex life by providing her husband more oral sex, the biased gendering of male and female bath products and its greater influence on young adults, and the common experience of women complying to impossible standards. Part 1 concludes with Doyle’s pivotal first meeting with her future wife, soccer player Abby Wambach.

Titled “Keys,” Part 2 centers around Doyle’s four steps to break away from the cages of social conditioning. Doyle chronicles her own progress through the steps as she learns to feel the full range of feelings, to be still and trust her instincts, to imagine the life she always wanted, and to let go of her conditioning completely in pursuit of trusting herself. Doyle’s journey takes her from her early days of sobriety while newly pregnant to her struggles to find peace and reconciliation in the aftermath of her husband’s infidelity and finally to her release of a lifetime’s share of conditioning in surrender to her ever-changing evolution as a human.  

Part 3, or “Free,” commences with a reflection on Doyle’s experiences with depression and anxiety from childhood into adulthood. From bulimia and addiction to a relentless need for control, Doyle’s attempts at coping with her depression and anxiety create obstacles on her journey to self-acceptance. She records both her own attempts to become the perfect wife, mother, and Christian, and also the sacrifices of her female friends on their respective, similar pursuits. Eventually, Doyle writes about her brave decision to leave her husband and pursue a relationship with Abby. Through her exploration of her relationships as a mother and wife, she slowly learns to release control and call upon herself for guidance. Doyle recounts her call to activism because of the American border crisis and the ways in which her activism has reinforced her commitment to trusting and embracing her untamed self.

Doyle ends her memoir with an Epilogue titled “Human”, where she provides direct, actionable suggestions for women like her who desire to break free from their conditioning. She devotes the last pages to a list of questions she asks herself and models the power of introspection and self-acceptance.