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A heartbreaking yet hopeful book about the tragedies that bring people together, recommended for readers dealing with the...

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A debut memoir that depicts the journey of a woman fighting for her husband’s life after he was hospitalized for an aggressive brain tumor.

On St. Patrick’s Day 2008, Vinje was thrown into a state of shock after she got a phone call while waiting in line at the grocery store. Her mother-in-law told her that her husband, Tom, had been in a car accident and had wandered away from the scene. The author returned home to find Tom chatting casually with their neighbors as if nothing much had happened. But the next morning, he was difficult to wake; later, he wouldn’t leave the couch and was throwing up bile. Vinje and her mother-in-law decided to take him to the hospital, where he was quickly put into intensive care and given a CT scan. But what they and the doctors thought were symptoms of a concussion were actually symptoms of an aggressive brain tumor. Over the next seven months, Vinje, the couple’s family members, and an enormous number of their friends and neighbors convened with love and prayer on a blog called The CaringBridge to try to bring hope to the devastating situation. Although Vinje did everything in her power to bring her husband back to health, she was forced to slowly accept the reality of the situation and face her worst nightmares. This gripping book tackles the heavy subject matter of watching a spouse deteriorate due to terminal cancer. Although it’s a common theme for memoirs, Vinje’s stands out because of its unusual narrative structure: it’s almost entirely composed of journal entries from her perspective and from those of many other people who loved Tom. These entries, written on The CaringBridge as Tom was struggling in the hospital and then after his death, speak with immediacy—particularly in earlier entries, as they express heart-wrenching hope that he will survive. It’s hard to read in parts, knowing that Tom will succumb to his illness, and the infallible optimism begins to read as an unwillingness to accept the grave situation. However, the memoir offers hope in showing how Vinje created a community of grieving, healing, and remembrance, sticking to her mantra that “Bad things happen fast; good things take time.”

A heartbreaking yet hopeful book about the tragedies that bring people together, recommended for readers dealing with the loss of a spouse or other loved one.

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-5038-9

Page Count: 446

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016


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



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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