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A RIVER COULD BE A TREE

A MEMOIR

An intriguing tale of one woman’s search for identity and community.

A memoir about an unusual spiritual journey.

In her first book, freelance writer Himsel chronicles her slow transition from the cultlike religion of her youth to her conversion to Judaism. Raised in rural Indiana, the author followed her parents into the Worldwide Church of God, a quasi-Christian religion founded by radio evangelist Herbert Armstrong. The religion, steeped in end-times teachings, required members to adhere to Old Testament laws and holy days while eschewing many of the traditions of mainstream Christianity. Himsel was raised to assume the imminent end of the world and to see her salvation as based on how thoroughly she followed church teachings. Nevertheless, she managed to move onward, entering Indiana University. In 1981, while in college, she left to study in Israel to pursue her intense interest in the area’s biblical history. At the time, she knew almost nothing about modern-day Israel or modern Judaism. Over time, however, her connection to Judaism grew—through Israel and through American Jewish friends—while her faith in her parents’ church waned. Eventually, while living in New York, a Jewish boyfriend and a pregnancy forced the issue of conversion, leading to yet another journey. Himsel admirably narrates her life story in page-turning prose that is both entertaining and moving. Her tale of conversion is unique given that she started in what can only be seen tangentially as a Christian denomination. The since-discredited Worldwide Church of God both stunted the author’s spiritual growth and led her to the foundations of Judaism. To many readers, it will seem that Judaism was a natural next step for Himsel. One unresolved issue is the author’s oft-expressed yearning for “the Spirit,” for a moment of certainty and full belonging. Unfortunately, she never seems to find this moment, nor even a full feeling of belonging, whether as a Christian or a Jew.

An intriguing tale of one woman’s search for identity and community.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941493-24-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Fig Tree Books

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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INTO THE WILD

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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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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