In a bizarre mixture of joint autobiography and sociology, occasionally complemented by detailed instructions on well-drilling, the Covington writer/spouse duo rehashes about 20 years of their stormy, messy married life. The tale of Vicki and Dennis offers no theme of general interest and is perhaps just as trivial or as original as the life story of any random passer-by. The difference here lies in a relatively sophisticated narrative technique that alternates the voices of husband and wife, each of whom in turn provides an individual interpretation of the same events. Vicki’s account is emotionally charged, while Dennis sticks to a more balanced and precise journalistic manner. Natives of Alabama, where they wind up again after several brief sojourns elsewhere, the couple have had a lifestyle mÇlange of hippie and pseudobohemian, which seems to defy their parents’ basic southern values. Drugs, alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and adultery, punctuated by a mÇnage Ö trois with one of Dennis’s fellow college professors, mix to form a pretty nauseating cocktail of the Covingtons’ earlier married life. Just when Vicki’s maternal instinct awakens, she is afflicted with an ectopic pregnancy, years of infertility treatment, eventual pregnancy by her husband’s buddy, and a subsequent abortion. She finally gives birth to two of Dennis’s daughters, their literary careers take off, and their life normalizes to a certain extent, although extramarital affairs remain omnipresent. The Covingtons’ return to the Southern Baptist Church appears as abrupt and unconvincing as their pathetic urge to drill water wells in El Salvador to satiate their “spiritual thirst.” The final chapters of the book feature frequent quotations from the Bible and pop songs, melodramatic talk of forgiveness, and sadomasochistic confessions the two make to each other about their respective lovers. One hopes that the story of the Covingtons’ “crimes and misdemeanors” will prove therapeutic for the authors, as the readers will find it neither edifying nor amusing. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-86547-548-2

Page Count: 124

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999


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



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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