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PLAN B

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON FAITH

Traveling Mercies set a very high standard, and to say that Plan B almost gets there is still to say that it’s a wonderful...

Funny, acerbic reflections on faith and family during George W. Bush’s first administration.

Readers have long awaited Lamott’s second book on spirituality (after Traveling Mercies, 1999), and it won’t disappoint—or not too much. As before, Lamott charts her life as a deeply religious Christian and committed leftist, though she’s no stereotypically pious Presbyterian. For example, she has dreadlocks and an out-of-wedlock son, her beloved Sam. She wears a red bracelet that was blessed by the Dalai Lama, and she hates Republicans, most especially George W. Bush. In the essays here, many from Salon, Lamott portrays herself as a mother heroically trying to figure out how to parent a smart—and occasionally smart-alecky—teenager. She also describes her attempts to love her aging, sagging body. And she takes readers inside her wonderfully warm church, still under the leadership of the awesome Veronica. Throughout, we read about her struggle to forgive her dead mother, and, because Lamott’s trademark humor and irreverence mark practically every page, readers will howl with laughter at Lamott’s inability to do anything with Mom’s ashes other than leave them in her closet. But there’s also the real work Lamott is doing here, the hard, slow work of forgiveness, and things can get teary. Still, the book doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. One example will suffice: Somehow Sam, whom readers first met in utero in Operating Instructions (1993), then as an enchanting grammar-schooler in Traveling, doesn’t make quite as charming a character this time around. Lamott’s approach to parenting an adolescent is not without wisdom, but reading about the Lamotts’ battles over homework is neither entertaining nor illuminating.

Traveling Mercies set a very high standard, and to say that Plan B almost gets there is still to say that it’s a wonderful read Lamott’s legions of fans will no doubt lap up.

Pub Date: March 3, 2005

ISBN: 1-57322-299-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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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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