A memoir of self-discovery by a young writer who still has more work to do.

GIRL IN THE WOODS

A MEMOIR

Finding redemption after trauma.

Matis sets up the book as a narrative of salvation. On her second night at college, she was raped in her dorm room. Understandably devastated, she dropped out after her freshman year and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, à la Cheryl Strayed in Wild. Matis periodically reaches back to her childhood in a leafy suburb of Massachusetts, the daughter of two Boston lawyers, to attempt to explain a nagging feeling of not belonging: friends at school teased her for the unfashionable clothes her mother bought her; the girls in her cabin at sleepaway camp teased her; her mother insisted on dressing her until she was well into her teens. Unfortunately, the author is repetitive (“It was a new day, a beautiful one, and I was the director of my life…”; "This time, I'd become the director of my life"), which causes the narrative to bloat (by nearly 100 pages). She also comes off as tone-deaf when she describes her journey on the trail, a trip funded by her parents: “The PCT would end, and I felt panicked. I’d be truly homeless, directionless”—though she also realized that she “could not return to the person she’d picked for me to be. My relationship with my mother trapped me in the identity of a child.” Matis writes vividly of the culture of the PCT—the special treats the locals put out for hikers to find, called “trail magic,” or the “trail angels” who host hikers in small towns along the way—and she is bold in her willingness to expose her psychic wounds. However, it’s difficult to remain sympathetic to her struggles when she widens her frame of victimhood to include her feelings of unattractiveness, her efforts to pry herself from her mother’s smothering grip, and her inability to put in contact lenses or swallow pills.

A memoir of self-discovery by a young writer who still has more work to do.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229106-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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