The prose reads like journal entries or letters to readers, punctuated by sometimes-trite remarks: “Death is the ultimate...

ON MY OWN

NPR host Rehm (Life with Maxie, 2010, etc.) reflects on loneliness, loss, and aging.

“For fifty-four years I have been a wife,” Rehm writes in a memoir more notable for candor than artfulness. “Now I am widow. Am I someone new?” In the mid-2000s, her husband, John, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, marking a profound change in their lives. As he gradually succumbed to the illness, the author found herself increasingly alone: the couple slept in separate bedrooms because of John’s involuntary thrashing, and in 2012, he moved into an assisted living facility because he needed 24-hour care. Despondent over his condition, he begged for help to end his life. “We had promised that we would do everything we could to support each other’s wishes in the face of debilitating and unalterable conditions,” Rehm writes. But she was helpless, as were John’s physicians. Making his own decision, John refused food, water, or medicines, and after 10 days, “surely the longest of my life,” the author admits, he died. Rehm was beset by guilt, worrying that she should have given up her career to care for John during the final year of his life. As she looks back at their sometimes-rocky marriage, she blames herself for not being passive or submissive enough to please a man who wanted to dominate. The author is often overcome by grief, not only for John, but “for our youth, for our love, for our happiness.” Widowhood is not the only identity change that Rehm has faced. She wonders who she will be once she retires and how, beginning her eighth decade, she can continue as “a fully engaged human being.”

The prose reads like journal entries or letters to readers, punctuated by sometimes-trite remarks: “Death is the ultimate finality,” she writes. “There is no turning back.” Nevertheless, her perspectives on old age are brave and uplifting.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87528-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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