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THE LAST YEAR

A heart-rending remembrance that lays bare complex familial relationships.

A woman reconnects with her biological parents and addresses her challenging relationship with the father who raised her in this debut memoir.

Banis was born in Boston in the summer of 1968 and was immediately given up for adoption. Her adoptive father, Diederich, was a German who experienced the horrors of World War II as a child. Lilia, her adoptive mother, hailed from an affluent Swiss family. As an infant, Banis lived briefly in Switzerland before her parents moved with her to America. Throughout her life, she writes, her relationship with her father was strained. On a fishing trip during her adolescence, she says that he remarked to her, “I should have adopted a boy.” In high school, Banis met Charles, whom she would later marry despite her parents’ disapproval; the couple went on to have two children. The author’s relationship with Diederich became increasingly fraught following the death of her mother from ovarian cancer. A new chapter in her life began when she met and bonded with her biological mother, Elizabeth Vornholdt, who gave her the information to track down Johnathan Bennett, her birth father. Soon after, her adoptive dad’s health began to rapidly deteriorate, and her birth mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Banis’ prose transports readers to dark places—none more so than the hospital room of her dying parent, which she describes in visceral detail: “After my dad fell into a predictable rhythm of breathing, I leaned over him and quietly told him I loved him and that I appreciated everything he ever did for me.” Her matter-of-fact style also has the power to charm, as when she describes clumsily dropping her cellphone after receiving her first message from her biological dad: “I stepped into the street after it as if my life depended on it. The light for me to cross was red, and a taxi nearly hit me because I lurched out in front of it.” Despite a smattering of comedic interludes, though, this is a desperately sad story. Still, its message is one of hope and forgiveness, which will surely offer strength to those facing similar challenges.

A heart-rending remembrance that lays bare complex familial relationships.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5043-9758-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

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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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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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