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LEAVE THE DOGS AT HOME

A MEMOIR

An average memoir that’s not really a guide to grief; it’s for anyone searching for what will make him or her happy—and more...

A debut memoir about death, grief, rebirth, and gardening.

Like the real world, the beginning of the book and Arbogast’s descriptions of her husband Jim’s impending death are tough going. As she reflects on their 27-year, on-again, off-again relationship, she paints a picture of two people who were unable to commit. When they married, they insisted that it “meant absolutely nothing.” Neither wanted a real relationship. The marriage was just for insurance purposes, and he didn’t want her to tell anyone about it. Though they married in early spring, Jim didn’t move into their house until winter. They had bought the house together a few years earlier, two acres out in the country with two big dogs. But Jim didn’t always share with her—not the information about his lymphoma or his skin cancer years earlier. He also waited months before telling her about his lung cancer, a result of his exposure to toxic chemicals during the Vietnam War. They went through lung surgery, brain surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and all the other possible treatments, but Jim eventually succumbed to the cancer. Arbogast’s story of rebuilding, or perhaps starting, a life has a persistent thread: her gardens. While dealing with her grief, she tore out gardens, added new ones, and changed entire landscapes, all the while thinking about moving to town. A few trips with and without the dogs, finding her roots, dating, and a new business dogged her search for a new direction in life. She was able to move on when she realized that her relationship was not necessarily as amazing as she once believed.

An average memoir that’s not really a guide to grief; it’s for anyone searching for what will make him or her happy—and more importantly, what will not.

Pub Date: July 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-253-01719-2

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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