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How many mishaps can be described in bilious tones before the audience needs to come up for air?

The author pursues his dream of becoming a charter-boat captain, even though Lady Luck keeps hitting him on the head as if with a baseball bat.

Debut memoirist Vann doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of his father, who committed suicide after being forced to sell his commercial fishing boat and return to his career as a dentist. So the younger Vann sticks relentlessly to his course, even as troubles rain down. He hocks himself way up beyond his ears to buy a 90-foot vessel on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. He hopes to pilot it on educational charters, but his hopes never get a chance as he encounters one problem after another in getting his ship seaworthy. Vann is downbeat from the start, appalled by the lies and shoddy workmanship of his Turkish boat-builder. The bitterness goes into full swing on the first cruise, as the caulking on the deck begins to come loose. A series of problems accumulates to critical mass in a life-threatening situation off Morocco. The crew’s saved by a dastardly German freighter captain who extends help but attempts to claim the vessel as salvage once Vann is brought aboard, when the boat can be considered abandoned. Entering bankruptcy, the author learns he will be prosecuted for embezzling funds from his future charter clients because he no longer has a boat to charter. The atmosphere gets thick with Vann’s splenetics, but angels keep dropping in to save his sorry financial situations. Incredibly, in an act readers might easily construe as willfully dangerous if not suicidal, he elects to try again, this time in the Caribbean. The predictable results include an unworthy boat, a bad storm and a rescue. The question remains wide open whether Vann should be lauded or have his sanity questioned.

How many mishaps can be described in bilious tones before the audience needs to come up for air?

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-56025-710-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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