Fernández’s passions, the immediacy of his reportage from the battered Communist redoubt, and his understanding of the Cuban...

ADRIFT

THE CUBAN BOAT PEOPLE

A compressed epic of the suffering, heroism, and determination that evinced itself in the Cuban refugee crisis of the 1990s—which in this translation carries heavy moral weight with intensely wrought, sometimes pedantic prose.

Following the 1989 collapse of the Soviet bloc, living conditions in Cuba deteriorated rapidly, and a series of political crises (generally involving US-Cuban brinkmanship) culminated in the frantic attempts by Cuban rafters to reach Miami between 1993 and 1996 (and since then). Fernández offers a terse but detailed narrative from within Cuba, capturing the desperate ingenuity of the Cuban people (both to build rafts, and merely to survive the post–’89 socialist privations), as well as the hoary treachery of the Castro regime (which constantly manipulated the rafters’ fates for political gain, first viciously attacking the refugees, then promising no interference to those who leave promptly). Although there were moments of both absurdity and triumph for the rafters, Fernández dwells on the horror: addressing the little-acknowledged fact that perhaps four times as many rafters died at sea as found land or rescuers, he narrates a long string of anecdotal suffering—typhoons, shark attacks, starvation, family members watching each other drown, and merciless “example-setting” killings by Cuban armed forces. Thankfully, Fernández also pulls back for the crucial global view, examining Castro’s long run, Cuba’s contentious relationship with other Latin American nations, and its perpetually worsening relations with the Clinton administration—culminating in the 1996 Cuban Air Force attack on the airborne exile group Brothers to the Rescue, and the punitive Helms-Burton Act that followed. The author’s portraits of these players and politicians, juxtaposed with details of the perpetually struggling Cubans, are laced with mordant irony.

Fernández’s passions, the immediacy of his reportage from the battered Communist redoubt, and his understanding of the Cuban people’s willingness to risk all for better lives make this a substantial contribution to a thorny international debate.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2000

ISBN: 1-55885-300-6

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

INTO THE WILD

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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