Well-wrought life of the woman who was not only—in the words of a New York Times editorial published on the occasion of her death, in 1948 at age 73—``the spirit that held [the Rockefellers] together'' but whose role in the handling of the family wealth was ``a fortunate thing for society, for this country, and for the world.'' Kert (The Hemingway Women, 1983), despite all her exhaustive research, happily lets her subject retain all of her formidable vitality and independence—characteristics that her husband, the psychologically repressed and romantic loner John D. Rockefeller, Jr., both admired and occasionally sought to curtail. Born in Providence into the distinguished Aldrich family, Abby grew up in a household dominated by her father's career as a US senator. Part of each year was spent in Washington, where Abby often acted as hostess when her ailing mother was indisposed. The Aldriches were lively, outgoing, and irreverent; the Rockefellers pious, reserved, and cautious, especially John, who fell in love with Abby while a student at Brown. These differences irrevocably shaped the marriage: While John adored Abby, always sought her counsel, and supported her involvement in so many issues—though he only reluctantly accepted her role as founder of the Museum of Modern Art—he resented the demands that their children and society made on her. Abby, a remarkably intuitive and sensitive woman, learned how to handle John's resentment, though at some personal cost. Kert deals not only with the couple's marriage—which was, in spite of some strains, a lifelong love affair—and the six Rockefeller children, but also with Abby's generous contributions to art, education, and politics, as well with as her role in creating Rockefeller Center and Colonial Williamsburg. A splendidly intelligent, very readable portrait of a woman who was as wise in the rearing of her family as in the spending of her great wealth. (Forty b&w photos—not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-394-56975-X

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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