The many full conversations are not transcripts of actual dialogue, yet they have the ring of truth—as do all these...

HUNGRY HILL

A MEMOIR

The pain-filled life of a teenager who lost her mother to cancer when she was 13 and her father to booze when she was 16.

Among the many scenes that Gaunt recalls vividly from those years growing up in Hungry Hill, an Irish-American neighborhood in Springfield, Mass., is one of a priest administering last rites to her mother. The loss of her mother, whom Gaunt hadn’t been told was dying, was life-altering, for it immediately saddled the teenager with heavy adult responsibilities. With a touch of humor and a sense of pride, Gaunt recounts the strain of trying to mother her seven unruly brothers, one of them only two years old. Her hard-drinking father, who calls her “a tough cookie,” seems indifferent to her emotional needs: In an especially insensitive move, he has the family doctor inform her of his upcoming wedding. Gaunt depicts her new stepmother, Mary, as a hot-tempered hypochondriac whose love for parties abets the father’s already serious addiction to what he calls “Irish medicine.” When he dies, Mary, now the caretaker of his brood of eight, blackmails the children into meeting her behavior standards by threatening to walk out on them. Not only does the author write movingly of her dysfunctional family life, she provides an achingly honest picture of a teenager hungrily seeking at school the approval she does not receive at home. Although her father had told her that college was only for boys, in the end she escapes Hungry Hill by making her own way to university. Gaunt, now a playwright, has interspersed in the memoir six playlets featuring herself as an adult. The three in which she confronts her father are imaginary scenes demonstrating what she would have liked him to know, but the others—a sorrowful visit to her mother’s grave, a compassionate, sadly disjointed talk with her heavily medicated stepmother in a nursing home and a revealing phone call to one of her brothers—appear to be real events.

The many full conversations are not transcripts of actual dialogue, yet they have the ring of truth—as do all these recollections of the loneliness of a girl growing up first without a mother and then without a father.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-55849-589-0

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Univ. of Massachusetts

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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