An engaging and controlled account of what love and home can look like.


In this novelistic memoir, a boy is placed in the care of relatives in an idyllic landscape.

Lanny’s father left town. His mother told him it would be a while before he came back. It wasn’t long before Mr. Allen moved in, a hard-drinking, short-tempered man who beat Lanny with his belt for just mentioning his father. After the assault, the boy’s mother drove the 5-year-old Lanny to the country to stay with Uncle Jim. “I’m leaving him American. And that’s how I want him back. American,” his mother said to Jim right before she drove away. “Not one single mention of C-H-I-N-You-Know-What.” Jim and his sister, Aunt MayLynne, were a strange pair: The former was a habitual collector of strays; the latter bedridden with “tired blood.” Jim taught Lanny how to fish and catch frogs, and he gave him a puppy, Skip, to keep him company. Jim also told Lanny the tale of how he lost a finger to the Big Snapper, a monstrous turtle that lived in the lake. The boy quickly figured out how to navigate the woods and water, reading the signs of the creatures that lived there. He learned to distrust the “summer people” who blundered through during certain months of the year. His uncle and aunt both told their nephew stories: Jim, about growing up with Lanny’s father and grandfather; MayLynne, tales from the old country where the boy’s grandfather was born. Encoded in these yarns—as well as the experiences Lanny had in the woods surrounding the family cabin—were lessons for how to exist in the world as well as a guide to who the boy was and where he had come from. But could these kindly relatives keep Lanny safe beyond the day when his mother inevitably returned to collect him?

Love tells the story from Lanny’s young perspective, giving it a gloss of wonder and partial understanding. The lucid prose reflects this naiveté: “Sometimes, on the path in the main woods, Skip would catch a scent, and I’d have to run to keep up with him, waving the branches and the brambles out of my face so they didn’t scratch. Most times, he’d just tree a squirrel, but once he had a raccoon on a branch just over his head. The raccoon was hissing at Skip something terrible.” The author bills the book as “the true story of a false childhood,” but the work is far more novelistic than memoiristic. He re-creates scenes and dialogue and resists the urge to explain or view events through hindsight. Indeed, the volume reads much like a children’s novel, such as Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows. This is not a flaw. The narrative has a subtle yet emotionally satisfying shape to it, and young readers will enjoy watching Lanny acquire skills and develop healthy relationships. The handling of Lanny’s Chinese ancestry—which is very rarely discussed—and the effective blending of Chinese traditions with woodsy American ones complicate this otherwise familiar story of a mid-20th-century boyhood.

An engaging and controlled account of what love and home can look like.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 205

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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