A heartfelt, unflinchingly honest account of a complex relationship.

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Sorry I Was No Fun at the Circus

DEVIL WINDS IN THE CITY OF ANGELS

In this debut memoir, an unnamed woman battles cancer while navigating an abusive relationship.

Chastain’s tale weaves back and forth through time, emotion and her protagonist’s life with her moody, charming and explosive husband. The most surprising thing about the man who dominates the narrator’s thoughts—who’s loving one moment, violent and inscrutable the next—is how little her cancer diagnosis influences his behavior. At one point, she asks her husband, “I wonder how you would have felt if someone you really loved had gotten cancer?”—one of the many hard-hitting emotional moments that punctuate the winding story. Through a blend of literary devices, in competent, artistic prose, Chastain vividly portrays her character’s self-doubt and bravery, as well as the unpredictable world in which she lives. The presence of the domestic—houses, baseball, clothes—alongside the metaphysical realities of illness, violence and love creates an engaging tension that will likely grip readers’ hearts and imaginations. The author’s decision not to name her main characters is intriguing but somewhat confusing, especially when she later names her characters’ mysteriously absent sons and family. Readers see into the characters’ hearts, but never learn enough real-world details to know much about them; similarly, while the narrator’s experience is certainly realistic, she and her husband lack a clear, satisfying character arc, and the end comes too suddenly and neatly. Despite this, Chastain’s searing and emotional look at intimate-partner violence is often heartbreaking, riveting and terrifying. Readers will likely find themselves rooting for the protagonist to leave her husband one minute and hoping she stays with him the next—embodying the tension felt by the characters in this thoughtful work.

A heartfelt, unflinchingly honest account of a complex relationship.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615628110

Page Count: 410

Publisher: Santiago Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2013

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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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