Indelible characters, adventurous spirit, and acute psychological insight combine in this multilayered debut.

WELCOME TO THE GODDAMN ICE CUBE

CHASING FEAR AND FINDING HOME IN THE GREAT WHITE NORTH

A memoir of arctic adventure that goes deeper into self-discovery and finding a home.

“I’ve spent more than half my life pointed northward, trying to answer private questions about violence and belonging and cold,” writes Braverman, a dog sledder and journalist whose frequent, extended visits to Norway and Alaska began from personal circumstances but soon assumed the significance of a quest to find a place where she belonged. Her journey from innocence to experience followed the map from south to north: “While southern Norwegians took pride in their restraint…northerners were loose and vulgar. They cursed, slurred their words, joked often about sex and death, and gauged time loosely.” As a teenage foreign exchange student in Norway who later led dog sled teams for tourists in Alaska, Braverman was frequently tested by the male-dominated culture, wondering when jokes crossed the line into something more, whether she was experiencing harassment or it was just in her head. Though the narrative jumps back and forth, chronologically and geographically, the voice throughout remains as insightful and engaging as it is uncertain, from a young woman who is never quite certain if she is safe, not only from the climate, but from so-called civilization, and where danger might lie. “The thing was, nothing that had happened to me…was beyond the normal scope of what happened to women all the time. Some harassment by an authority figure, a few sexual remarks, pressure from an insistent boyfriend?” Yet her experience allowed her to recognize what had been wrong all along, as she found pleasure in sex where she didn’t feel that pressure and fell in love of her own volition. Her external experiences are extraordinary in the frigid north that so few have experienced, but it’s what happens internally that both sets this memoir apart and gives it universal resonance.

Indelible characters, adventurous spirit, and acute psychological insight combine in this multilayered debut.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0062311566

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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