Uneven but capably written. Rowe leaves readers wishing for a more satisfying solution to one puzzle while feeling relief in...

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THE SPIDER AND THE FLY

A REPORTER, A SERIAL KILLER, AND THE MEANING OF MURDER

What happens when a reporter has the willpower and tenacity to try to overcome a serial killer’s refusal to communicate?

Seattle Times staff writer Rowe chronicles her dogged search to learn about convicted serial killer Kendall Francois, who killed eight female prostitutes in Poughkeepsie, New York, and stashed their bodies in the home he shared with his parents and sister. Francois, it seems, communicated with Rowe, via letters and a few face-to-face meetings, simply in an attempt to draw her into a relationship of some sort. For a while, it worked. Rowe sought a greater understanding of what separates a killer from the rest of us and, specifically, from herself. Francois’ refusal to discuss the murders he committed means the book is light on the meat of the crimes it covers, but it becomes obvious as the story progresses that at some point Rowe became as interested in investigating her own passage into adulthood as her subject’s interior life. Her childhood and difficult relationship with her mother and boyfriend become increasingly important narrative fodder, while her communications with Francois fade into the background. It is unclear whether Rowe sees herself as the spider or the fly in this strange, tense relationship, but the hunt was ineffectual in either case. The author never got her exclusive story, and Francois never achieved the deep, meaningful relationship he tried to force. Rowe’s engaging prose means the pages practically turn themselves, regardless of the disappointing end to the exchange. However, some readers may be frustrated with how to view the book: as a twisted coming-of-age memoir or the chronicle of a determined hunt for a killer’s motive.

Uneven but capably written. Rowe leaves readers wishing for a more satisfying solution to one puzzle while feeling relief in the resolution of the other.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241612-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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