This sensitive, eloquent coming-of-age story articulates the often painful intersections of religion, power, illness, and death. Mystery writer Wilson (Trouble in Transylvania, 1993, etc.) departs from fiction here to unveil her Christian Science upbringing in uncompromising, often disturbing detail. The crux of the book is how family and faith fall apart when the author's mother, a devout Christian Scientist, dies of breast cancer at a relatively young age (and after a failed suicide attempt). Given Christian Science's teaching that illness and death are merely errors of the mind that must be corrected, the family was forbidden to mourn this loss. Such denial meant that grief and anger were channeled into other, often horrifying, modes of expression: her father's remarriage to a sadistic woman and the author's own floundering, which made her receptive to her new stepbrother's sexual advances. In this sense, the book is an unforgettable testimony to the destructive powers of some religious beliefs. But paradoxically, it is also a nuanced acknowledgment of the ways in which sectarian religion orders the chaos of the world, providing new opportunities for its followers. Wilson concedes, for instance, that Christian Science healing continues to provide an important outlet for women, who comprise almost 90 percent of healers. She can also see that Christian Science helped her to define her own strength as a woman—her identity forged not just through surviving her mother's death but through more mundane statements of faith, such as her refusal to accept a school polio vaccine in the 1950s. Historically informed and refreshingly candid—though a bit too long—this offers not just an individual memoir of an increasingly obscure religious movement, but also a more general exploration of the crises of faith and health in the 20th century. (Of particular interest is Wilson's parallel of contemporary guru Deepak Chopra with Mary Baker Eddy.)

Pub Date: March 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15066-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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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 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...


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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