A forthright and sensitive tale of a daughter’s quest.

MAGICAL REALISM FOR NON-BELIEVERS

A MEMOIR OF FINDING FAMILY

A young woman crosses a cultural divide in search of her past.

In her debut memoir, Fajardo (The Dish on Food and Farming in Colonial America, 2017, etc.) recounts her emotional journey, at age 21, to find the father she had not seen since she was a young child. Born in Colombia, the author grew up in Minnesota; her American mother told her that her father, Renzo, loved his native country so much that he did not want to leave. The truth, Fajardo learned, was much more complicated, as were her feelings for the stranger with gray-flecked black hair and mustache, smelling of cigarette smoke and soap, who greeted her, accompanied by his young wife, when she landed in Colombia. Their reunion was awkward despite each being able to speak the other’s language. Fajardo wanted not only to know Renzo, but to understand why her mother could not live with him—in short, “the complicated truth of these two people who brought me into the world, the events that had aligned to create the life I was living.” She discovered more than her parents’ apparent incompatibility. Her father was “overly emotional and fiercely closed off,” she writes, “and my mother reacts to everyone’s mood, switching back and forth between bliss and despair.” Her mother felt alienated and isolated in Colombia, and Renzo felt the same when they returned to Minneapolis. Those differences proved unbridgeable, but there were other problems, as well, including her father’s infidelity and, for the author, a shocking revelation. Fajardo strains to make connections between the events of her life and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. When it was published in the 1960s, she writes, “magical realism was part of the landscape, not a literary genre.” However, this story, marked by disillusion, yearning, sadness, and one happy coincidence, does not draw upon or evoke magical realism; nor does Fajardo need García Márquez to justify or bolster her memoir.

A forthright and sensitive tale of a daughter’s quest.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0686-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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