An often engaging story of outhouses, canned moose and bears—oh, my!

WINDS OF SKILAK

A TALE OF TRUE GRIT, TRUE LOVE AND SURVIVAL IN THE ALASKAN WILDERNESS

Ward’s spirited debut memoir documents the privations and advantages of life in Alaska’s wilderness.

The author was just 25 years old in 1980 when her husband, Sam, quit his job and sold their Ohio home. Sam was from West Virginia mountain stock and had strong survival and hunting skills, so they decided to go to Alaska. Although suburbanite Ward was initially reluctant about going on such an adventure, she threw herself into her “new role as a wilderness wife.” After a five-day journey, they settled on Skilak Lake on the Kenai Peninsula, known for its sudden storms. They started out in a tent, eating nothing but rice and not showering for a month. The chapter on how they built their cabin, “By the Sweat of Our Backs,” particularly stands out. Throughout, black-and-white photographs and lively, re-created dialogue show how the Wards adjusted to new standards. “We eventually learned to slow our pace to nature’s speed. Compared with squatting in the woods, an outhouse was quite a luxury,” Ward writes. A few close friendships with other residents eased their loneliness, even after 2 feet of snow and a frozen lake isolated them during the winter. However, the cozy, Little House on the Prairie–style domesticity of their “little piece of paradise” couldn’t keep danger at bay, as when a tree fell and broke Sam’s back. In this memoir, Ward strikes a good balance between repetitive daily tasks—foraging, canning meat, making blueberry jam, milking goats and sewing leather garments—and more momentous events, such as an earthquake, a view of the northern lights, and run-ins with bears. She also uses a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, to provide much comic relief. Along the way, Ward emphasizes the spiritual as well as the practical implications of becoming a pioneer woman: “The wilderness made me who I am today….Although I remained far from the nearest church, I felt closer to God than ever before.” The descriptions of nature sometimes shade purple (“Autumn showed her brilliance by clothing the mountains in a skirt of tie-dyed glory”), but more often than not, the language is restrained. The couple’s Alaskan odyssey lasted 15 years, so there’s still plenty of room for future sequels.

An often engaging story of outhouses, canned moose and bears—oh, my!

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-1626524712

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Two Harbors Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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