A moving tale of physical and psychological survival.



In her debut, Herfkens tells the story of being the only survivor of a 1992 small-plane crash in Vietnam.

The author was reluctant to board a small plane with Willem, her boyfriend of 13 years, because of her claustrophobia. But her situation became more desperate than she could have imagined: The plane crashed in the jungle, killing her fiance and leaving her all alone—and, due to injuries, barely able to move. She survived on rainwater for eight days before she was finally rescued, but resuming her life in the wake of the tragedy proved to be just as much of a struggle. Throughout this memoir, the author employs an effective style: The story unfolds chronologically, intercut with earlier events—her days in the jungle, for example, are juxtaposed with her budding romance with Willem and her college internship in Chile. This device intermittently relieves the tension of her harrowing time in the jungle, which was marked by endless pain. It also makes the story more poignant by showing Willem and Annette’s plans for a future, including the possibility of marriage. She uses the same technique with equal potency later, when she returns to the crash site in 2005, a cathartic decision offset by the circumstances of her home life; at the time, she and her husband were unemployed and raising an autistic child. At one point, the author cites her preference for simply telling her story and letting readers interpret it on their own, and she does this with dexterity, memorably describing experiences such as lying in the wrecked plane and seeing her exposed shin bone, “[l]ike a page in a biology book.” The book is also filled with inspiring, encouraging moments, as when Jaime, her friend and colleague, heads for Vietnam to find her; he refuses to take dental records to potentially identify a body and instead takes her hairbrush. “She might need it,” he says. Overall, the author offers a great deal of relatable insight into her experience, at one point stating quite profoundly: “Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have.”

A moving tale of physical and psychological survival.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0991317905

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Matter & Mind

Review Posted Online: March 24, 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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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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