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SURPRISED BY OXFORD

A MEMOIR

Well-written, often poignant and surprisingly relatable.

Memoir of a literature professor who converted to Christianity in the halls of Oxford University.

Coming home for the holidays, Weber (English/Seattle Univ.) had a handsome young man with a jewelry box in his pocket waiting for her at the gate. Most girls would be excited, but not the author. As her ex–fiancé-to-be awaited her arrival, Weber found herself confiding to a concerned stranger that she'd been thinking about someone else: Jesus. It's an inauspicious beginning for a conversion story, inciting the same adverse reaction in readers as the author’s agnostic friends—nice, well-educated girls do not break up with their boyfriends and become Christians. But a lot has changed since Weber began her graduate studies at Oxford, an establishment where semesters with names like "Michaelmas" and "Hilary" frame a touching narrative of friendship, love and faith. There, the author was just as often inspired by Keats and the Beatles as she was by the Gospel. Weaving lines of poetry, philosophy and scripture into her narrative, Weber grasps at the meaning of life in the pages of great works of literature and overcomes her own childhood cynicism. Ultimately, a boy she refers to as TDK (i.e., tall, dark and handsome) won her heart and encouraged her to convert. When normal, 20-something trials ensued, notably a visit from a Georgia Peach in designer stilettos who threatened to steal her crush, the author’s new faith was put to the test. The delicately crafted moments when Weber’s faith allowed her to think more clearly and walk more gracefully through her life are, much like her romance, worth the wait.

Well-written, often poignant and surprisingly relatable.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8499-4611-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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NIGHT

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

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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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