An adequate self-help memoir from a woman who wouldn’t seem like the type for self-help books.

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LIFE WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME

...AND YOU TOO!

A presidential election, a midlife crisis, and psychiatric therapy bring some revelation to the author and perhaps a turning point as well.

Handler (Uganda Be Kidding Me, 2014, etc.) is at a crossroads. She has become the embodiment of the sort of elitist entitlement that she fears helped elect a president she hates. She also seems burdened by what she previously might have considered blessings, living a bubblelike existence with assistants to deal with her every command and inconvenience and few significant responsibilities. “I have the Trump family and their vampiric veneers and horrifying personalities to thank for my midlife crisis,” she writes of the anger and emptiness she felt amid a successful life. She had conquered the comedy circuit, the TV screen, and the bestseller lists, but it no longer seemed enough in the wake of a national crisis. But what could she do? As it became obvious that her inner turmoil ran deeper than Trump, she finally sought therapy. “I was forty-two when I finally saw a real psychiatrist,” she writes, providing an exhaustive account of her therapy that includes pages of re-created dialogue. Handler also details the traumas that have shaped her, mainly the death of her brother when she was 9 and, later, the death of each parent, whom she had loved with such ambivalence and grieved differently than what she thought was expected. Her brother has remained fixed in her memory as the first man who broke her heart, and rather than experience such heartbreak again, she has found deeper, more meaningful relationships with her dogs, who provide much of the comic relief in the text. When her therapist advised, “you have been a human doing, and we need to get you to be a human being,” she winced at the banality. But by the end, she matches him with, “wake up. Take a nap. Laugh. Cry. Rinse. Repeat.”

An adequate self-help memoir from a woman who wouldn’t seem like the type for self-help books.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51177-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

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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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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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