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An engaging account of an angry, sad, and ultimately triumphant journey to new beginnings.

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In this debut memoir, a woman revisits the tumultuous period during and after the dissolution of her 20-year marriage, recalling her struggles to reimagine and reconstruct her life.

In 2009, six years and seven judges after Willett discovered that her husband, Jake, was cheating on her, a divorce decree was issued. She was “fifty-three and unemployed.” She had not wanted the divorce and did everything she could to fight it. Finally, the author did win one battle: She got to keep the couple’s house, a beautiful Victorian brownstone in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. The legal skirmishes surrounding the divorce offer an illuminating backstory that highlights the changing ethos in the family court system of the new millennium. Some readers may see it as a reflection of the “mommy wars” prevalent in today’s social media universe. Willett had given up her own legal career after her first daughter, Nicki, was born. By 2009, she had not held a full-time job for over a decade. For this decision, she received a disturbing, highly unprofessional dressing down by the seventh judge, a woman: “You’ve offended every working parent in the courthouse by becoming a stay-at-home mom.” Four years later, as the couple’s younger daughter, Ella, a high school senior, was preparing to go off to college, the author accepted the reality that it was time to sell the brownstone. Although she had already spent years returning or discarding the things Jake had left behind, she now was faced with dispensing with the plethora of items that can accumulate over more than a decade of living in a large house. The agonizing process of going through every cabinet, stored carton, and piece of paper forms the organizational structure of the intriguing narrative. Each item triggers a series of vivid memories, creating a story that frequently, sometimes exhaustingly alternates back and forth in time. While there are too many details, the articulate prose is solid (“Clutter experts say if you haven’t used something in a year you should err on the side of throwing it out. I could have filled truckloads using that litmus test, but it seemed wasteful. Besides, what if I plain loved something, even if I barely or never used it?”). Readers who have endured “paring down” will find much here that resonates.

An engaging account of an angry, sad, and ultimately triumphant journey to new beginnings.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64293-150-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Post Hill Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

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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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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

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