Tedium sometimes drags the narrative down, but readers will most likely appreciate the frank reflections from another era.

PIECES OF A LIFE

A glimpse of two parents’ teenage years in the 1920s, gleaned from entries from the mother’s diary and pieces of the father’s autobiography, with embellishment from their daughter.

In her later years, Pellettiere’s mother, Ruth, gradually faded away due to Alzheimer’s. Like many children, Pellettiere wondered what her mother was really like. To find out, she presents her mother’s teenage diary entries. Ruth grew up in 1920s Illinois, and her writings are filled with the worries and concerns of a teenage girl—schoolwork, finding a job, going on dates, and interacting with friends and family. Her future husband also grew up then, but his autobiographical account is concerned more with the problems of working, finding a career and making a living than with personal relationships—a fact noted by their daughter, who, in between their letters, provides a running commentary that portrays a marriage in which a domineering, career-obsessed man gradually eroded his wife’s personality until there was little left. This book can be read on two levels. On the surface, the text is banal, rarely more than mundane comments on life, people and events; on a deeper level, however, the greater questions loom. What constitutes a life? How do we get from A to Z over the course of a lifetime? How does a smiling, hopeful young girl become a taciturn, tired older woman? Pellettiere ends the book with a black-and-white picture of a young, smiling Ruth looking hopeful for the future, unaware what her tragic future holds. Although tedious, the guileless text provides an opportunity to read about real people and their honest concerns, without all the artificial drama found in Facebook updates, cellphones, text messages and pervasive social media. Life seemed simpler back then: Christmas, for instance, was a modest affair, without today’s nonstop commercial assault. Are we better off today?

Tedium sometimes drags the narrative down, but readers will most likely appreciate the frank reflections from another era.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1462407279

Page Count: 266

Publisher: InspiringVoices

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2014

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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