Next book

THE MAN WHO WALKED BACKWARD

AN AMERICAN DREAMER'S SEARCH FOR MEANING IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION

A minor-episode-in-history yarn that gets spun out a couple of dozen pages too long but that has legs all the same.

From the strange-but-true annals, a wild ride through the Depression era, one foot at a time.

Plennie Wingo (1895-1993) was an Abilene restaurateur who got on the wrong side of the revenuers by buying and selling bootleg alcohol during Prohibition. He wasn’t alone: By Montgomery’s (Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, 2014) account, half of the court cases in 1928 in Texas had to do with booze. Nor was he alone in seeing his finances crumble to dust in the stock market crash and ensuing yearslong financial downturn. But Wingo was nothing if not entrepreneurial, and he hit on an idea that was both fundraiser and protest—and, writes the author at an appropriately onrushing pace, “when a certain kind of man has a certain kind of idea, one that he considers good, that good idea takes hold of him and it swells behind his eyeballs and expands, balloon-like, so big that it crowds out all the other thoughts and ideas.” That idea was to walk across America, and maybe Europe, too, backward, selling postcards and other mementos of his madcap endeavor to support his family. It worked: Wingo remains in the record books, and he saw history unfold and had wondrous and sometimes fraught experiences (“he had barely made it through the gate of a fortified village at the foot of the ancient Bohemian castle when he noticed that the peasants seemed like they wanted to kill him”). There’s a feel at times that Montgomery is bewitched by the open spaces; his many-paged reverie on the Great Plains and their Indigenous inhabitants (“the Indians submitted and the buffalo rotted and the plains sat empty”) seems as if it really belongs in another book. Still, following Wingo’s travels makes for a pleasing enough read.

A minor-episode-in-history yarn that gets spun out a couple of dozen pages too long but that has legs all the same.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-43806-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Next book

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Next book

NIGHT

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

Close Quickview