Slack moments aside, this memoir of travel with a family in need of change has its pleasures.

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HOW TO BE A FAMILY

THE YEAR I DRAGGED MY KIDS AROUND THE WORLD TO FIND A NEW WAY TO BE TOGETHER

Slate editor Kois (Facing Future, 2009, etc.) looks for a little quality time with the family, finding it in adventures and misadventures around the world.

“Above all,” writes the author near the beginning, “our life as a family felt as though it were flying past in a blur of petty arguments, overworked days, exhausted nights, an inchoate longing for some kind of existence that made more sense.” The answer: Uproot. Move. Go see what the rest of the world looks like while the kids are still young. Kois and his family embarked on a journey that took them from Northern Virginia to New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Kansas, and back again in a whirlwind year. The book doesn’t have much of a thesis, but its slightly melancholy ending might remind cinema-minded readers of the end of Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film Local Hero. There are a few set pieces and clichés but also some nicely tuned-in observations befitting a keen-eyed journalist. For example, the author writes about how in Holland, speed laws for motor vehicles are set at 30 kilometers per hour because anything more would likely doom a pedestrian or cyclist to death. So it is that people survive such collisions in Holland, which puts a nation assured of good odds on two wheels, which, thus applied to children, “helps create the kind of independence that Dutch parents prize." The America of red-state Kansas proved more fearful but not without civic virtues; refreshingly, Kois doesn’t hammer too hard on politics even though it’s clear where his views lie. Overall, the book is a minor contribution to the literature of family (and travel, for that matter), but it’s a pleasant narrative that makes few demands on readers.

Slack moments aside, this memoir of travel with a family in need of change has its pleasures.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-55262-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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