A plain but honest memoir and an inspiring story of how one person can make a profound difference.



A memoir about the author’s efforts to help a struggling hospital in Africa.

Gorman’s debut recounts her journey to the struggling African country of Chad to help a maternity ward, as well as the events leading up to and following her trip. The author was living a comfortable life in Wales as a neonatal nurse when she was moved to action after watching a BBC program that showed how young mothers in Chad frequently died for want of simple medicines such as magnesium sulfate and antibiotics. Her initial plan to get her union to contribute some money for medicine quickly turned into a larger, grass-roots effort, which eventually led Gorman to travel to Chad with three other volunteers and a BBC film crew. The author effectively describes her impressions of the struggling African nation (“Occasionally we would see some areas with greenery and pools of stagnant water near the roadside”). She also recounts what they saw in the hospital maternity ward—including hopeful stories that show how the medicine they brought saved lives and grimmer stories about patients they were unable to help. The book includes traveloguelike stories about meals and places they visited, as well as a description of the local hospital’s medical practices and the author’s basic training for midwives. Gorman also provides many details about the journey and its daily events, and some may seem extraneous to the overall story; there are also times when the book becomes repetitive, although on at least one occasion, the author notes this (“If these words sound familiar, it is because I know that I have already described them in an earlier chapter”). In many ways, Gorman’s down-to-earth nature makes the book feel like a long letter from a close friend. She shows an appealing willingness to share humorous personal details, such as her fear of African insects and an incident in which she accidentally left a package of her underwear among supplies being donated to the hospital.

A plain but honest memoir and an inspiring story of how one person can make a profound difference.

Pub Date: April 24, 2007

ISBN: 978-1425992002

Page Count: 272

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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