A probing and candid memoir.

A Ukrainian-American writer’s account of the heartbreaking details she learned about her parents and their relationship after the death of her widowed, alcoholic mother.

When Yurchyshyn returned to Boston after her mother died, she found a once “enchanting” home in shambles. Even more disturbing was the discovery of letters her parents had exchanged with each other that revealed unexpected depths of passionate affection. The author remembered her father, George, as “emotionally distant and occasionally abusive” and her mother, Anita, as “resentful and selfish.” Determined to understand parents she believed had never been in love, she began re-examining her life with them. Her Ukrainian-born father had been a bank executive and her colorfully bohemian mother, the international vice president of the Sierra Club. Both had been travelers who journeyed to cities all over the world. While her parents projected a glamorous image to others, Yurchyshyn saw a very different picture at home. George’s meanness and unprovoked rages terrified her, and Anita “looked like she was performing joyfulness without actually feeling it.” George eventually took a job in Ukraine, where he died in a car accident when the author was 16. Left alone in the United States, Anita began the slow, agonizing descent into the alcoholism that eventually contributed to her death years later. Seeking answers beyond the tantalizingly incomplete records her parents left behind, Yurchyshyn interviewed friends and family members. She learned of the difficult backgrounds George and Anita had both overcome and of the infant son they loved and lost before the author was born. Most devastating of all, Yurchyshyn came face to face with the truth behind her father’s death: George, who had returned to Ukraine to help establish a venture capital company, had been murdered. Searching and intense, Yurchyshyn’s book is not only a heartfelt examination of parent-child relationships; it is also an unsentimental interrogation of the complex nature of family love.

A probing and candid memoir.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-44704-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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