Stern is such a skilled stylist—and such an unforgiving judge of herself—that the memoir radiates a morbid fascination.

Stern (The Long Haul, 2003) offers a searing memoir about her lifelong panic disorder.

In a series of mostly brief chapters, most of which could function as stand-alone mini-essays, the author proves, as other memoirists have before her, that looking away from a train wreck can be nearly impossible. The riveting story is mostly chronological, as Stern deals with her daily fears up to age 25, the age when a therapist finally provided the proper medical term for her outsized anxieties. “The matter-of-factness with which [the therapist has] said all these life-altering things astonishes me,” she writes of that revelation. “I’ve spent my entire life battling some impossible, invisible plague no one ever seemed to see, and this guy did it with such ease, as though panic disorder is easy to establish, obvious to anyone who would take the time to ask what my symptoms were; textbook, even.” At times, the author jumps ahead to the current decade, as she approaches 50. In her recent years, she has been thinking seriously about becoming a mother. As a result, she explores the science of freezing her eggs until she can identify a suitable sperm donor. Eventually, she decided that the move would be too risky. With a loving mother, a compassionate stepfather, stable siblings, admirable schoolteachers, and at least a couple of competent therapists, the author seemingly faced good odds of shedding her panic disorder and resulting anxieties. However, as she shows, she has had to battle anxieties nearly every day, with occasional patches of worry-free hours. In one of the chapters, Stern shares with readers a day-by-day account of a full week, conveying what it is like inside her head. At the end of selected chapters, the author includes actual paragraphs from the reports of multiple therapists she consulted, sometimes willingly, sometimes under duress.

Stern is such a skilled stylist—and such an unforgiving judge of herself—that the memoir radiates a morbid fascination.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1192-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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