Well-meant but the components refuse to interlock.



An interesting but predictable autobiographical essay on homecoming and heroism.

Offut, who over the past decade has won kudos for his memoir (The Same River Twice, 1993) and stories of the Kentucky hill people (Out of the Woods, 1999, etc.), attempts an ambitious juxtaposition: a memoir of his return to a teaching job at a small regional college intercut with verbatim transcriptions of his in-laws’ experiences during the Holocaust. The ironic unifying theme is that although home is a sustaining force in the human imagination, we can never actually return there. Offut, a writer and teacher inspired to share his love of books and learning with his “people,” meets insurmountable obstacles in his one-man education crusade. Meanwhile, his in-laws, Arthur and Irene, in recounting their survival in a concentration camp, seem glad just to be alive and entertain no illusions about a return to prewar Europe. There are several problems here. Offut’s desire to play a significant role again in the community of his childhood seems naïve and predictably doomed; it’s never entirely clear how much of his story and dialogue is fictionalized, a distraction in a book that purports to render Holocaust memories faithfully; and the parallel accounts—an idealist frustrated by unmotivated students in Kentucky versus Jews facing death in a Nazi concentration camp—are grossly disproportionate. Offut’s strength has always been the beauty and confidence with which he describes the culture he knows; his commentary on the world of SS men, guard dogs, and barbed wire feels far less assured. There’s an excellent short essay on a rural county’s ability to see through its prodigal son, and many other bright moments, weighed down by awkwardly forced passages involving the author’s affection for his first-grade teacher, muscle cars, trees, and a dead owl.

Well-meant but the components refuse to interlock.

Pub Date: April 3, 2002

ISBN: 0-684-86551-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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