A delectably warm and wise memoir.



An award-winning novelist tells the deliciously candid story of her unconventional path to motherhood.

Abu-Jaber (Birds of Paradise, 2011, etc.) grew up between the polarities of two strong personalities: that of her Arab father, Bud, on the one hand, and her maternal grandmother, Grace, on the other. Adversaries who also happened to agree on many things, they fought for the author’s attention through food: where Bud delighted with his spicy meat dishes, Grace tempted with her divine cakes and cookies. The struggle also centered around their desires for Abu-Jaber's life, with Bud demanding that she wed as soon as she was old enough and her grandmother warning that romance was “lie” and marriage and babies were “for women who [couldn’t] do much else.” Abu-Jaber, however, was determined to create her own life recipe, which proved harder than she imagined. Straight out of college, she married a man who was more convenience than lover and whom she divorced less than a year later. Secretly enchanted by “the idea of marriage,” she wed again in graduate school, this time to an intellectual for whom she felt no passion. In the midst of personal turmoil, her career thrived, but it wasn’t until her mid-30s that she finally settled into a relationship that satisfied her desires rather than those instilled by Bud and Grace. A decade later, Abu-Jaber suddenly found herself wanting to adopt a child, whom she named in honor of the woman who warned her against motherhood. Strong-willed yet tender, Gracie not only taught the author lessons in patience, giving, and self-acceptance. She also became the unexpected apple of Bud’s baby boy–coveting eye and the missing ingredient in an intergenerational recipe for family harmony. Generously seasoned by an abiding love of food and a keen eye for the nuances of human relationships, this book is a reminder that however unpredictable it may be, life is a dish to be savored.

A delectably warm and wise memoir.

Pub Date: April 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24909-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?