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A bizarre and complicated history told with masterful control.

Thoroughly engrossing page-turner on the shape-shifting Church of Scientology and its despotic, possibly criminal hierarchy.

Rolling Stone contributing editor Reitman based this debut on an award-winning article she wrote for that magazine in 2006 amid a flurry of media interest in the normally press-averse organization as it launched an antic publicity campaign featuring the world’s most famous Scientologist, Tom Cruise. For most of its 50-plus-year history, Scientology not only avoided attention; it viciously attacked anyone who dared come after it with every means, legal and otherwise, at its disposal. Some say it has even managed to get away with murder (or manslaughter), indentured servitude of minors, brainwashing and the stalking of apostates. So how did such a notoriously thin-skinned and anti-social belief system acquire any believers at all? Reitman delves into the pop-psychology, positive-thinking origins of the cult in the early ’50s in the mind of science-fiction hack, truth-bender and would-be commodore of the planet L. Ron Hubbard. A complex, Ponzi-like structure of franchises and a catechism called the Bridge to Total Freedom requiring steep payment from pilgrims at every point along the way resulted in rapid financial growth. As the cult grew in size, its founder took to the sea, creating a society resembling a sci-fi dystopia, designed both to exalt himself and evade tax laws on the land. After Hubbard died an isolated and paranoid hermit, a young man named David Miscavige muscled his way to the top with the blunt aplomb of a Stalinist apparatchik, punctuating his ascendancy with consequent purges of perceived rivals. Reitman somehow manages to maintain an objective stance throughout the book. One of her sources is a charmingly (and surprisingly) independent-minded young second-generation Scientologist named Natalie, whom the author posits as representing an alternative, more recognizably human future of the church—if the top dogs don’t first succeed in blowing it all to bits.

A bizarre and complicated history told with masterful control.

Pub Date: July 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-618-88302-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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