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A tour de force.

Carey’s debut is at once an Irish home-reconstruction comedy, a requiem for Fire Island friends, and a treasury of Broadway gossip, all for the love of Mammie.

In the early 1960s, 12-year-old Alice and her mother sail to Ireland to visit relatives in County Kerry. There they find Mammie’s brother Bob, a pedophile priest; cow-milking cousin DD; bog fires, excellent tea, and good whiskey. They continue on to Father Bob's meager Liverpool parish and to London, the trip’s highlight. Forty years later, Carey and her husband sell their beloved Fire Island home off Long Island and buy a “ruin” near Bantry Bay, County Cork. The main narrative covers the repair of this pre-Famine building: architect, laborers, and neighbors appear on an unpredictable schedule; New York friends visit and travel to such local sights as the Skellig Rocks. Between commutes to Ireland, Carey remembers her Catholic childhood in Queens, maintaining the present-tense narrative that gives all of her memoir such immediacy. Keeping her pugnacious father in the background (and never calling him “Dad,” always Carey), she recalls struggling in school and sneaking into weddings with her mother. When Mammie is hired as housekeeper to Broadway producer Jean Dalrymple and, later, Jed Harris, life changes dramatically. Big Alice brings in Little Alice to help after school. They love the Manhattan good life: wonderful clothes, Christmas cards from Cartier, piles of sweets from East Side bakeries, all the showbiz gossip from Homer Poupart, Dalrymple's gay assistant. Carey's affection for Homer later leads to her summering in Cherry Grove, Fire Island's gayest community. Harris, a heart of gold behind the ruthless facade, provides Alice with front row seats for Peter Pan, and helps her switch to a first-rate high school, where she does well. The sentimental subtitle belies a powerful, earthy, affectionate story whose disparate sections are knit together by Carey’s skillful characterizations, authentic dialogue, and witty observations.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60984-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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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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