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

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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...


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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