An elegant, moving contribution to the literature of death and dying.

NOTES ON GRIEF

An affecting paean to the author’s father, James Nwoye Adichie (1932-2020).

“I am writing about my father in the past tense, and I cannot believe I am writing about my father in the past tense.” So writes award-winning Nigerian novelist Adichie, reflecting on her father’s remarkable life in this slim volume. The first professor of statistics in his country, James lived an eventful and sometimes fraught life. During the Biafran War, for instance, Nigerian soldiers burned all his books, which American colleagues rushed to replace—and, Adichie adds, sent bookshelves as well. He courted the author’s mother sight unseen: A relative bragged about the young scholar, saying he needed an educated wife: “A relative of hers said that she was educated and beautiful, fair as an egret. Fair as an egret! O na-enwu ka ugbana! Another standing family joke.” Funny and principled, James died during the pandemic—not of the virus but kidney disease. Compounding her grief was distance, and Adichie and her siblings followed Igbo tradition by making an “immediate pivot from pain to planning.” In one Zoom call after another, they arranged a burial on an approved Friday that’s not a holiday, since Fridays are the one day the parish priest will bury an elderly person—and, Adichie writes, not being given a proper funeral is a fear that amounts to existential dread among people of her father’s generation. She moves through some of the classic stages of grief, including no small amount of anger—at the well-meaning but empty word demise as well as the ineffectual condolences of well-meaning people: “ ‘It has happened, so just celebrate his life,’ an old friend wrote, and it incensed me.” Eventually, the author reflects on a newfound awareness of mortality and finds a “new urgency” to live her life and do her work in the ever present shadow of death.

An elegant, moving contribution to the literature of death and dying.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32080-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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