An elucidating, poignant study of an elusive leader.




Though ailing, exhausted, and stretched to the limit, Franklin Roosevelt had a driving mission until the end.

While famous for his first 100 days—during which an epic number of laws were passed to relieve the suffering caused by the Great Depression—President Roosevelt spent his last days at the end of World War II reduced in physical strength but not mental capacity, accomplishing some of the most important work of his presidency. Woolner (History/Marist Coll.; co-editor: Progressive Politics in America: Past, Present and Future, 2016, etc.) argues that while FDR was famously unfathomable (“I never let my right hand know what my left hand does”), he was absolutely dedicated to his job, and ill health would not stop him from accomplishing the most important item of the postwar peace: the creation of the United Nations. Using newly available archival sources, such as memos from his physicians who kept his secrets, the Grace Tully papers, and those of Sarah Churchill, present at the Yalta Conference, as well as a “recently constructed day-to-day calendar of his activities and contacts,” the author assembles an impressively authoritative look at Roosevelt’s last days. By the consensus of his team of physicians, FDR did not have the stamina to withstand a fourth term, yet he would run and win to keep Americans hopeful that 1945 would bring victory and enduring peace. Indeed, he was pressed by “a terrible sense of urgency” as he furiously prepared for Yalta, where he would meet Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin and hammer out a postwar peace. In the bulk of the book, Woolner lays out the argument that though obviously physically debilitated, FDR held his own against Stalin, especially regarding Poland, despite heavy criticism. Furthermore, meeting King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia afterward at the Great Bitter Lake “marked the first formal intrusion by the American government into the struggle between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine.”

An elucidating, poignant study of an elusive leader.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-04871-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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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...


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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