An intriguingly honest portrayal of an expat’s life-altering personal growth in Asia.

FINDING VENERABLE MOTHER

A memoir of an American woman’s unexpected journey toward spiritual healing in Thailand.

In 2005 debut author Rasicot moved from northern California to Thailand, where her husband, Randall, had accepted a three-year work assignment. In time, the couple and their 13-year-old son, Kris, settled into a new life in an expat community, complete with a live-in maid and the company of other Americans. The novelty of the experience wore off, however, and Rasicot felt aimless as “the initial honeymoon period of being in Thailand had started to fade, and a familiar gray cloud of depression began to envelop me.” She decided to attend a conference on women’s issues in Bangkok, where she met Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, a Thai college professor–turned–Buddhist nun, who ran a monastery or vihara for women. The author spent time in the monastery, and it set her on the path toward finding what she calls her “authentic self—beyond the prescribed roles of wife and mother.” Raised Jewish, Rasicot learned the ways of Buddhism, interviewed Dhammananda, and reflected on her own life, knowing that soon enough she and her family would return to California. With fewer than 250 pages, the book proves a swift foray into a foreign place, but it’s full of information. Rasicot offers details on everything from living in an expat community (a place where high school students drive golf carts to school) to setting out at dawn on an “alms round” (when monks carrying round bowls receive offerings of rice from donors who believe their act “builds positive karma for this life and the next”). The resulting story is highly personal, with some aspects developed better than others. For all the challenges the author faced, her descriptions of a shopping expedition with her sister are not exactly captivating. Regardless of the subject matter, however, a genuine, unguarded tone permeates the work. Rasicot writes candidly of her disagreements with her husband, of recollections of her mother, and of a lesson she learned from the “Venerable Mother” Dhammananda: “When we go forward with a truly open heart,” she writes, “faith, forgiveness, and love are possible.”   

An intriguingly honest portrayal of an expat’s life-altering personal growth in Asia.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-702-9

Page Count: 232

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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