Lucky us, to be out there in the audience.




Novelist Kinder (Honeymooners, 2001, etc.) pours out sudden, undomesticated, melancholy word songs from his home place, where he’s returned to gather stories for stewing in his imagination and memory.

On sabbatical from his teaching job at the University of Pittsburgh—and, not incidentally, from his wife of 20 years—the author holes up in small-town West Virginia to appropriate the stories of “mountaineer characters, both the quick and the dead, among both my family members and strangers.” Here in the haunted hills of his youth, along their twisty roads, he will rediscover “a mostly imagined interior landscape populated by mythic beings: legendary mountain dancers, moonshiners, stupendous marijuana farmers, snakehandlers, blood-feudists, mystery midgets, mothmen, horny space aliens,” to which can be added Hank Williams and Saint Elvis, lover Holly and lover Mary X, a grace-sent sister, Matewan and Blair Mountain, and enough George Dickel to float a boat. Kinder is also there to take mid-life stock of himself: the stories of his youth have a wicked, poignant bite, but they are much of what shaped him today, with all the lying and cheating and wild behavior. It’s not ultimately too surprising that the guy who calls Sid Hatfield “that wisecracking, wiry, killer nihilist magical West Virginian warrior” should later find himself “armed to the teeth, driving my redneck, ritual-feudist kinfolks around in rain that was becoming black and whispery . . . happy as a clam.” Scouting out strange and grief-filled stories, then recounting them with peerless “pure High Hillbilly” flair, Kinder is weak on the emotional front; his wife has him squarely in the crosshairs when she says, “You always have tried to live your life like a country song. Full of fucking melodrama and cheap sentimentality.” He is impenitent, ready to kick back the piano stool the better to hammer the keys: “Who else did I have to bare my so-called soul to, except perhaps the world at large?”

Lucky us, to be out there in the audience.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1406-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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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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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...


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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