Sassy societal commentary muddled by a lack of cohesion or a satisfying conclusion.

Bauer’s relatable but unremarkable debut memoir describes growing up and attempting to define herself while also keeping her faith in God.

Raised in the New Jersey suburbs during the 1970s, the author received an “accelerated Christian education,” primarily from Old Testament stories, in a school operated out of a church basement. She was taught that she should put her self aside to serve God, and warnings about imminent Armageddon made her an anxious, fearful child. Her peers at Christian school were told to avoid television and radio, but she watched MTV and loved rock ’n’ roll. Skeptical of religious fanaticism but still holding tight to her faith, Bauer wittily reveals the insufficiencies and insincerities of church and Christian paraphernalia. In high school and college, she observed the world of drinking, sex and drugs but did not partake. She dated boys and attended frat parties for “research” purposes while seeking guidance from authors like Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. Virginal and sober, she discovered a love of poetry and the possibility of living a faith-based life with some flexibility, but she remained shy and insecure. She moved to New York City, aspiring to write and to create a new identity. She dug deeper into religion, society and herself, but repeatedly came back empty-handed. After sampling different denominations and ways of living, she finally gave up on the church and, later, God. As Bauer describes a slew of failed relationships, characters come and go too quickly for attachment, and the book devolves into a stream-of-consciousness narrative occasionally interrupted by events. Sarcasm and dry humor give way to a more desperate tone as her search for meaning becomes harder and her list of questions longer. She never finds any real answers, and readers may find themselves as confused and discouraged as the author.

Sassy societal commentary muddled by a lack of cohesion or a satisfying conclusion.

Pub Date: July 28, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-084054-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009


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

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