A candid balance of perseverance and despair.

A woman’s restless, often anguished journey from rural China to an American economic-consulting firm.

Shen was born to illiterate farmers in a commune-controlled hamlet along the Yangtze River. Starved for love from her parents, who were exhausted from long hours planting rice shoots in the fields, Shen found an outlet from the misery in her schoolwork. At age 17, she became the first in her family to attend college, which she soon discovered was nothing like the self-empowering Wellesley College campus she would eventually know. Instead, it was a set of cement buildings in which students simply went through the motions, having been guaranteed a teaching job for life by the government. Smart and ambitious, Shen performed well, but upon graduation lacked the money to bribe the Education Bureau for placement anywhere better than a suffocatingly small village not far from her own hamlet. As an impoverished English teacher, she fought the loneliness by sleeping with men for companionship while cursing herself for becoming a whore like her mother, who was carrying on a decade-long affair. Shen became pregnant by a married businessman, who smuggled her into the hospital for an abortion (without anesthesia)—the painful description of the event is haunting. The author finally scraped together enough money to visit booming Shanghai in 1995, which inspired her to join other desperate Chinese in “jumping in the ocean”—“giving up governmental jobs and joining the free market” in South China. Defying her parents, she worked as a secretary and Amway salesgirl before returning indebted and covered in lice. A translating job at a knitting company led to opportunities that finally made her rich—but not without moral sacrifice, a requisite (especially for women) in the corrupt business world of New China. Wealthy but still emotionally lost, Shen finally sought and found reconciliation with her family, as well as marriage to an American she met online.

A candid balance of perseverance and despair.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56947-586-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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