An amusing foray into the witchy realms of Burroughs’ life that lacks the depth of previous memoirs.

The magical side of the acclaimed author’s colorful life.

Burroughs (Lust & Wonder, 2016, etc.) is well known for his soul-baring, bestselling memoirs, including Running With Scissors, his vivid portrait of his dysfunctional family life, and Dry, his powerful account of alcoholism and getting clean. One might think he has few secrets left to divulge, yet in this latest memoir, he reveals a startling new detail: He’s a witch. In fact, the author, who first realized his “gift” as a young boy, comes from a long line of witches, including his mother and grandmother. The loosely constructed narrative initially revolves around the author’s anecdotal “witchy” incidents that occurred as a child and then later as an adult, especially as related to his relationship with his husband, Christopher. Burroughs chronicles how he convinced Christopher to move from their urban Manhattan life and settle in a historic home in rural Connecticut. The author has always displayed a talent for sharing sometimes-grim personal dramas with a keen whimsical flair. Unfortunately, the balance is never quite achieved here; the dramatic moments are softly conceived while his narrative often swings in a broader comedic direction. Though the author’s witch revelation feels authentic, some elements of the story undermine the gravity of his tale. These include such chapter headings as “Adder’s Tongue,” “Snake’s Blood,” “Fairie’s Finger,” and “Bat’s Wings” as well as frequent mentions of the 1960s sitcom Bewitched, in which Burroughs compares his experiences to those of Samantha Stevens. The author delivers intermittently intriguing depictions of the quirky local characters they have encountered in the countryside, including redneck handymen, a flamboyant has-been opera singer neighbor, and their real estate agent, who also happens to be a witch. Though we see Burroughs and Christopher struggle through potential hardships, including a tornado and illness, these often feel like contrived plot points allowing for further witty indulgences.

An amusing foray into the witchy realms of Burroughs’ life that lacks the depth of previous memoirs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-01995-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview