Abrams has had an interesting, auspicious career--but his narrative is shackled by its origins. In 1973, under traumatic circumstances (he had just separated from his wife of 30 years and learned he had an apparently fatal case of leukemia), Abram was asked by the American Jewish Committee, of which he was a past president, to tape an oral history of his life. After a horrendous bout with the disease, Abram survived, remarried happily, and now finishes the story. But his understandable exultation at cheating death sheds a sort of triumphal glow over all his past, including some moments--his run-ins, while president of Brandeis, with radical blacks; his jumping the Democratic party in 1980--that contain a large, unanalyzed residue of ambivalence and even defeat. Eager to recount his victories--helping to abolish the rigged ""county unit"" voting system in Georgia, pressing the Vatican to retract the age-old slander of Jews as deicides, years of productive work in civil rights and public health--Abram seems unaware, usually, of how much has been lost. At one point, he does have a brief revelation. Lying desperately ill from chemotherapy in Mount Sinai Hospital, Abram anticipates his death and realizes there is no way he can be buried ""at home."" Home was not the stupefying provincial town of Fitzgerald, GA (60 miles from Plains), where he was born and whence he fled at 16. Home was not Atlanta, where despite his success as a lawyer and political activist, he was never fully accepted. Nor was home in New York, where his Southern and (quasi-) Baptist roots made him something of an outsider. But Abram soon drops this promising theme, and by the end of the book he's stoutly defending his vote for Reagan--because Carter couldn't be trusted on Israel. Less self-promotion and more introspection--especially on the paradoxical status of a noted liberal turned nco-conservative--would have lifted Abram's book above the ordinary.