A medical account that successfully examines the deeper fears readers have about death and dissatisfaction.

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HEARTSONG

LIVING WITH A DYING HEART

A woman recounts coming to terms with a life-threatening heart illness in this inspirational memoir.

A retired emergency room and ICU nurse, Speake (Slow Hope, 2005) did not accept the news that she had idiopathic cardiomyopathy with as much grace as one might expect. “My cardiac diagnosis tilted my whole world off its axis,” she recalls. “It felt like I’d awakened one morning to discover I’d been moved to a new neighborhood in a new city, and I hated it. In fact, it wasn’t long before I developed a whole new list of hates.” Her medication caused nausea and insomnia, and the 10,000 steps she was expected to walk every day seemed a Herculean feat even with the help of George (or “G,” as she calls him), her husband of 25 years. The author was interested in the reasons for her heart disease, specifically whether it had to do with the physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her alcoholic parents. But, as Speake learned, definitive answers weren’t always available, and with a potentially fatal condition, she needed to figure out a way to be at peace with her past, her present, and whatever the future might hold. This memoir chronicles the author’s journey confronting her own mortality, which included moving beyond the treatments and statistics of Western medicine and into explorations of reiki, mindfulness, and a new sort of relationship with God. Speake’s sharp prose captures the tension she felt in her search for answers: “Had the life I’d led contributed to my heart disease diagnosis? Had there been too many divorces? Too many men? Had my parents been too abusive? For most of my adult life, I’d been a single parent. Had all the years of my hard work in the end been too hard and the years too many?” The book is less about the gravity of the author’s illness than her own inability to not panic over its potential to be serious. In this way, her situation is surprisingly relatable—everyone is dying, fast or slow—and the need to find a way to be OK with that is as urgent for her as it is for readers.

A medical account that successfully examines the deeper fears readers have about death and dissatisfaction.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-437-0

Page Count: 168

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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