Despite the sometimes-exhausting repetition, Feiler provides a fascinating look at why Adam and Eve matter in understanding...

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THE FIRST LOVE STORY

ADAM, EVE, AND US

Feiler (The Secrets of Happy Families, 2013, etc.) examines the saga of the first romantic couple in an intellectual exploration that could have been titled “A Thousand Ways of Looking at Adam and Eve.”

The author relates how he began contemplating Adam and Eve obsessively while visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome with his 8-year-old twin daughters. One of the girls examined the ceiling, saw the image of God pointing at Adam, and asked, “Why is there only a man? Where am I in the picture?” Noticing a different detail, his other daughter asked, “Who’s that woman under God’s arm? Is that Eve?” Those questions caused Feiler to realize the centrality of Adam and Eve in conversations about male-female dynamics over the past 3,000 years. “One story,” he writes, “has served as the battleground for human relationships and sexual identity.” To understand that centrality, the author researched the Bible carefully, read countless other religious and secular portrayals, and consulted dozens of scholars from a variety of disciplines. Although torn from the start about whether Adam and Eve were flesh-and-blood individuals or mythical creations, Feiler seems to lean toward the former throughout his exploration, which is impressively wide-ranging but repetitive to a fault. The author discusses the couple foremost as examples of love for and loyalty to each other. In addition, he examines them as sexual beings, parents, trailblazers for equality between genders, and much more. The repetition revolves around Feiler’s insistence, in somewhat varied words in each chapter, that the couple invented and defined love—both at the guidance of God and somewhat independently of God. At times, he comes across as a college debater trying overly hard to prove points that are impossible to prove.

Despite the sometimes-exhausting repetition, Feiler provides a fascinating look at why Adam and Eve matter in understanding couples today.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-681-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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