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LEAVING BEFORE THE RAINS COME

Although her batty and unhinged relatives emerge more vividly than her taciturn husband, Fuller’s talent as a storyteller...

Fuller (Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, 2012, etc.) resumes her memories of growing up in Africa in this wry, forthright and captivating memoir.

This time, the focus is on the slow unraveling of her marriage to a man she thought would save her from her family’s madness and chaos. Except for her father’s insistence that his children bathe and dress formally for dinner—a gesture toward discipline that emerged nowhere else—Fuller’s childhood was as wild as the Zambian landscape. Her father made “absolute, capricious, and patriarchal” rules. Boredom, he announced, was “the worst possible sin.” Despite, or perhaps because of, his idiosyncrasies and contradictions, the author idolized him. Her mother, with a family history of mental instability, often succumbed to “long, solo voyages into her dark, grief-disturbed interior,” fueled by alcohol. Resembling her physically, Fuller feared that along with “all that Scottish passion,” she might inherit madness, as well: “how could I have skipped the place where her ingenuity and passion sat too close to insanity on the spiraling legacy of heritage?” Unsurprisingly, she married an adventurous, dependable man who she thought would provide stability and order. Her husband “was the perfect rescuer,” she writes, “and I the most relieved and grateful rescue victim.” After a few years in Africa, they moved to America, where living was easier (dependable electricity and running water, for example), unthreatened by political uprisings or rampaging elephants. They had children, but financial pressures, especially after 2008, and her own loneliness gradually took a toll: “Ours had contracted into a grocery-list relationship—finances, children, housekeeping.” To reclaim her life, she insisted on divorce.

Although her batty and unhinged relatives emerge more vividly than her taciturn husband, Fuller’s talent as a storyteller makes this memoir sing.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1594205866

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

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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