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ONCE MORE TO THE RODEO

A MEMOIR

A tender and engrossing travelogue that fully embodies “what it means to be a man and a father.”

A father-son soul-searching expedition forms the heart of Boston-based writer Hennick’s moving memoir.

Nile was just 5 when his father decided to take him on a road trip to create lasting, significant memories. The firstborn son of the author, who is white, and his Haitian wife, Belzie, a middle school teacher, Nile had progressed from a tantrum-filled toddlerhood into a “sensitive, big-hearted kid, quick to fall in love with new people and places.” Together, they set out from Massachusetts on a 10-day road trip with “impossibly high” expectations, and they hoped to end up at the annual two-night rodeo in Hennick’s hometown of Maxwell, Iowa, a place he hadn’t visited since his teenage years. The trip was a fascinating exercise in parental patience for the author, who was chronically challenged with weight issues and excessive drinking. The narrative progresses day to day as Hennick effectively incorporates his adventures with Nile with personal anecdotes about the author’s relationship with Belzie, his experiences as a father, and his own family history (“divorce is the organizing principle”). Along the way, father and son grew closer through stirring and educational conversations about the racial politics of skin color and baseball history in Cooperstown, New York, as well as challenging swimming lessons. After reuniting with Belzie and his daughter, “Peanut,” in Chicago, they made it to Iowa; at this point, Hennick painfully lingers over the impact of his lackluster relationship with his errant, indifferent father. Still, he was able to maintain a cleareyed resolve. “I want to be for my children the father I never had: present, sober, responsible, hard-working, competent, loving, organized, attentive.” Parents will find a great amount of relatable material in Hennick’s affecting, often poignant memoir. “One day,” he writes, “all that will be left of me is what my children remember.”

A tender and engrossing travelogue that fully embodies “what it means to be a man and a father.”

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-888889-97-0

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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