Discomfiting, but memorable.




“When it began to feel as though my life had become defined by a series of divides,” writes cultural journalist Busch (Geography of Home, 1999, etc.), “it seemed to be the time to take a swim.”

Divided from a close friend by death, from her twin sons by the impenetrable fog of adolescence, the pushing-50 author wanted to “find a divide that could be crossed.” So on August 29, 2001, she swam across the Hudson River. Less than two weeks later, the World Trade Center towers fell. After that, Busch explains, she decided “to begin each autumn by swimming across a river, some small, personal trial by water that could secure safe passage into the coming year.” By 2005 she had traveled to nine rivers and swum across eight, discovering along the way stories of transformation and renewal. Beginning close to home in New York, then moving west to the Mississippi, Busch captures the character and history of each river. She draws on the writings of Least Heat-Moon, Edward Abbey, Mark Twain and Bill Bryson, among others; the technical expertise of engineers; the practical knowledge of park rangers, campers and assorted river lovers, including Pete Seeger; and her own observations and impressions. We learn that the sweet-flavored Hudson flows both north and south, that the Delaware has swift currents, boulders and deep pools, that the Susquehanna is unnaturally warm. The beautiful Connecticut River has black silt; the busy Mississippi and the Monongahela rivers are brown and muddy; the Cheat and Current rivers are clear and green. Forethought, research and careful planning generally preceded Busch’s ventures, except for a projected swim across the Ohio, derailed by reliance on luck and happenstance. Her friend Onni was usually her swimming partner, and on heavily trafficked rivers a raft or boat accompanied her for safety. In the deepest sense, however, these were solitary journeys exploring an internal landscape as well as connecting to the natural world around her.

Discomfiting, but memorable.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-59691-045-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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