A modest, spirited, and sometimes-captivating memoir.

A warm recounting of a bumpy journey to surprising success.

In some ways, Monroe’s (English/Texas State Univ.; On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain, 2010, etc.) candid memoir reads like a country ballad: a down-and-out woman, working at gritty jobs, gets entangled with Mr. Completely, Laughably Wrong; the brakes on her pickup truck repeatedly fail; she lives in one grungy apartment after another. But her unexpected story is far from a cliché. With no particular direction in her life, she started college, first aiming for an associate degree and then deciding to go on—and on, finally earning a doctorate. Despite her father’s warning that she would become un-marriageable, she came to realize that education “makes you good company for yourself.” Being alone with her books, though, was not all she wanted. At 24, she married a musician with “faux-bucolic ideals and soundtrack to match.” After speedily divorcing him, she became pregnant by a man happy to marry her. By the time of the wedding, she had had a miscarriage and realized, too, that her husband was a slacker with grandiose plans, a violent temper, and a penchant for lying. Although they stayed together too long and Monroe had to support them both, she was determined to complete her degree and creative writing dissertation. Not only did she graduate, but her stories won a prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award for work, the judges said, that “comprised a world, an iconography.” She then found a teaching position at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, moving to Texas State University in 1992. Monroe lightly sketches her adopted African-American daughter, the subject of her last memoir, and she celebrates her happy third marriage to a man “who knew that running a tidy, books-balanced household where my child came first was as important, or more important, than my career.”

A modest, spirited, and sometimes-captivating memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8203-4874-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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

Close Quickview