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An overly sentimental book. Child-free readers—and levelheaded parents in need of a break—should take a pass.

A mother's angst-filled yet romanticized experience of her children's growth.

Near the beginning of her latest book, Real Simple “Modern Manners” columnist and parenting blogger Newman (Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family, 2005) notes how there are "things you thought would be fun with kids but secretly aren’t”—e.g., “making biscuits, watching the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies, ice-skating”—and “how they all end up in tears and pooping." Unfortunately, the author frequently overwhelms readers with cooing worship of her young children, and her focus on and adoration of them seem to exist in a bubble in which the nuclear family rarely comes into contact with outsiders. (She has no inclination for mentioning her husband, who barely registers in the narrative.) Newman is clearly besotted with her daughter, but readers may become frustrated with such observations as, "her dark-lashed peach of a face the dearest thing I've ever had the good sense to notice.” The author’s voice is deliberate and soft, and the very short chapters catalog her insecurities and show that she makes little time for herself. Most scenes are interior, centered on meals and the children’s precocious conversations. Yet Newman is self-aware, and she admits she is filled with "dotty, nearly heartbroken devotion and, also, something like despair.” But there is no relatable or humorous counterweight to her "apocalyptic, death-and-mayhem catalog of possibilities that arrive[s] daily in the in-box of [her] brain.” Even as her children move into their preteen years, she continues to romantically pine for their early-childhood wonder. "I drive everybody crazy with my nostalgia and happiness,” she writes. “I am bittersweet personified."

An overly sentimental book. Child-free readers—and levelheaded parents in need of a break—should take a pass.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-33750-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2016

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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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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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