Bruno is a silent partner, often unmentioned for pages at a time, but Smith relates their experiences in a deliberate,...

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CROSSING THE PLAINS WITH BRUNO

Exploring the Midwest, the past, and the passing of time on a road trip with a chocolate Lab named Bruno.

A two-week solo road trip across the Great Plains is a journey that can be approached in two different ways: as an unsavory, short-as-possible trek of necessity or as an opportunity that provides miles of uninterrupted reverie, a chance for the mind to luxuriate in all manner of memories. For writer and filmmaker Smith (In This We Are Native, 2002, etc.), a founding board member of the Sundance Institute, it was more the latter that appealed to her, with one minor change: her traveling companion, Bruno. In the preface, the author discusses the losses that followed her journey. While still reworking the book, Bruno became ill, and the veterinarian was unable to save him; Smith’s mother, the lodestar of the story in ways both physical (she was going to help her mother with moving) and spiritual, passed away. Furthermore, the start of her trip occurred in the same month as the anniversary of the death of Smith’s husband. Before embarking, the author entered the date, mileage, and time of departure in her journal. Then the numbers mostly faded into the background. She holds her life and the choices made—by her and for her—up to the light cast by her relationships with friends and family. She also tenderly shares the details of some of the losses in her life and examines what happens to hopes when they are fulfilled differently than one might expect and when the person doing the hoping finds herself looking backward to find her way forward. “One twist of the kaleidoscope at memory’s core causes the shards to fragment and re-pattern,” writes the author, “but they are always the same shards.”

Bruno is a silent partner, often unmentioned for pages at a time, but Smith relates their experiences in a deliberate, thoughtful way.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59534-669-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Trinity Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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