A sobering and revelatory account of a family tragedy unfolding over many years.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A mother recounts her struggle to maintain her belief in God in the face of her daughter’s life sentence in this inspirational memoir.

Debut author Hirst thought she was doing everything right. A devout Christian from a young age, she married her high school sweetheart, moved to a small Washington town to raise a family, and eventually opened two restaurants with her husband, Ron. God appeared to smile on her and her family. Then her 35-year-old daughter, Lacey, was sentenced to life without parole for hiring someone to kill her husband’s pregnant girlfriend. “Courtroom activity fades into the background as I query myself: Did I not pray correctly?” remembers the author. “Did I not believe enough in His power? Why has God forsaken my family and me?” Leading up to the trial, Hirst had been certain of her daughter’s innocence and eventual acquittal despite the widespread assumption that Lacey was guilty. Afterward, the author wasn’t sure of anything. This book is an account of how Hirst learned to be a mother to a woman permanently imprisoned, stepping in to raise Lacey’s children and supporting her daughter from the outside. It is also the story of a woman forced to restart her relationship with God from scratch. Hirst’s prose is quietly emotional and often powerful, as here when she describes her anxiety during Lacey’s long trial: “The unknown hung over me like a tornado funnel in the distance. I didn’t know where or how violently it might touch down. I cleaned closets, junk drawers, and file cabinets. By organizing unseen chaos, I attempted to regain order in my life.” The case itself—and the author’s relationship to it—is deeply engrossing while the book’s religious element is actually quite light. Hirst’s nightmare situation will be sympathetic to any reader. It is truly her quagmire—not Lacey’s—in which the audience will become ensnared. By the end, the author manages to get to a place that feels somehow redemptive, leaving readers to wonder whether they would be able to make it there as well. 

A sobering and revelatory account of a family tragedy unfolding over many years.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-594-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019


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



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

Close Quickview