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JUBILANT JOURNEYS

Unique, occasionally mesmerizing; loaded with esoteric historical tidbits.

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Novelist Spenuzza (Lucia Zárate, 2017, etc.), who writes fiction under the pen name Cecilia Velastegui, offers a travel memoir unusually rich in imagery, history, and spirituality.

Spenuzza and her husband, Peter, seem to have been destined to traverse the planet. She was born in Quito, Ecuador, the great-grandniece of the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Ecuador. She was a child of privilege—until her mother divorced her father, against the cardinal’s wishes. Spenuzza was told her mother had left the country. She herself was sequestered in a convent school. In 1962, at the age of 9, she, her brother, and her sister were put, unaccompanied, on a plane to California. This was her first travel adventure, and the excitement she felt then presaged a passion for travel that she and Peter have shared over the subsequent decades. Not just any travel. Fortified with family legends and historical details garnered from the author’s copious research for her historical novels, she, Peter, and their two sons, Pete and Jay-Paul, explored ancient sites around the globe. They searched the Basque region of Spain, seeking out (and finding) the ancestral family home of Ojer de Velástegui, “a member of minor nobility in Guipúzcoa, Spain,” said to be one of her ancestral relatives: “he was among Christopher Columbus’s crew on the historic Pinta sailing of 1492.” Spenuzza’s prose reflects her emotional connections with those who walked the Earth in bygone centuries. In Turkey, for example, she rummaged through the Grand Bazaar for the type of cloths used by the Ottoman sultan’s concubines to keep their skin smooth: “I wanted to feel more than the fibers in the world-renowned Turkish towels: I was hoping to touch the desperation on the concubines’ skin as they shed their old layer and hoped that their newer and softer coating would ensure their sons a cushier future.” At times, however, the text slips into pedagogy, with lengthy lessons in art and history—not as much fun as reading about her adventures at Peru’s Huayna Picchu.

Unique, occasionally mesmerizing; loaded with esoteric historical tidbits.    

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Libros Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

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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