Chase contemplates the burdens of family in the aftermath of his brother's death from AIDS. The author, whose work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies, was exceptionally close to his older brother Ken during their San Jose childhood, despite a six-year age difference. The brothers collaborated on cartoons and invented a cast of puppet characters, creating a private refuge against the adult world. Both brothers grew up to be gay, which served as a further point of solidarity in a family whose members (including three much older siblings) seem all to have been in continual emotional deadlock with one another. Between his mother's complaints about her job in a wig shop and his father's brooding presence hurling racist epithets at the TV, Chase gives a credible account of suburban angst: ``My parents...were often angry when we were growing up. It always frightened me, and I came to believe that the world, and everyone in it, was above all volatile.'' He tells of losing Ken not only to death but also, in another sense, to his parents: The brothers' solidarity weakens as their parents unexpectedly provide the compassionate full-time care Ken requires during a late stretch of his illness. This realignment of family alliances is presented convincingly as a wrenching dilemma. Chase weaves his memoir with thematic threads that are sometimes brilliantly chosen: Both of his parents were raised as Christian Scientists, and Chase tells of his grandmother, a diabetic who loved sweets, accepting the gift of a get-well cake from a fellow churchgoer and commenting, ``Love can't hurt me.'' The grandmother soon died because of that sort of love, of course, and the entire chapter that follows delineates the endless ironies called up by his grandmother's words, particularly, although Chase doesn't stress the point, in reference to AIDS. A quiet, eloquent memoir that admirably avoids sentimental histrionics.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-251019-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?


Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet