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. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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