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A journey through life with a guide who knows the trail and its wonders and who delights in the unexpected vistas that...

A biology professor’s memoir concerning maps, memory and the importance of the natural world.

Norment (Environmental Science and Biology/SUNY Brockport; Return to Warden’s Grove: Science, Desire, and the Lives of Sparrows, 2008, etc.) begins one dreary March day when, tired of grading papers, he pulled out a map of Mount Whitney, Calif., and began to ruminate about maps, boyhood, marriage, fatherhood and life in the outdoors. The author writes of his longtime passion for trails and highways and describes many experiences on the twisted, tangled trails in remote regions of North America and, eventually, of his life. Although an Edenic aura often glows around his accounts, the snake is present, too, in the form of a sexually abusive, alcoholic stepfather. Norment does not offer graphic descriptions of his boyhood trauma, but at various times the dark memories of abuse drip their poison on his prose. Roughly chronological (but with flashbacks), the narrative covers his boyhood wanderings in California, his childhood fascination with gas-station maps, his experiences following feral burros in Death Valley, his pleasant memories of working with Outward Bound and his hikes with his children and a lifelong friend, with whom he hiked, sans maps, in a remote area of Washington State. He writes eloquently about the allegorical aspects of maps and evinces a wide acquaintance with scientific and creative literature, alluding to Faulkner, Chabon, Vonnegut, Muir, Hugo, Shakespeare and many others.

A journey through life with a guide who knows the trail and its wonders and who delights in the unexpected vistas that elevation can offer.

Pub Date: March 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60938-077-9

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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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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