An eclectic treasury of the cherished and the evocative.

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THE OBJECT PARADE

ESSAYS

A pensive perusal of the objects that can define and shape a life.

The materials that actress and essayist Lenney (Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir, 2007) draws her inspiration from may be commonplace items, but to her, they “tell the stories of our lives.” The author reflects on integral items present throughout her history. Beloved is the Tiffany watch generously given as a wedding gift by her Grandpa Charlie, whose Steinway baby grand piano proved to be laborious to disassemble and relocate to her home in Los Angeles. Though uneven, the collection’s pieces build on each other, layer upon vivid layer of Lenney’s personal history, her heart firmly invested in hearth and home. The author’s family forms the centerpiece in a good portion of these ruminative writings, including a spontaneous, nostalgic revisit to her childhood home, an epistolary essay to her father, or a standout piece, “Nests,” which beautifully intertwines her sister’s dispirited emotional state with a family of watchful doves. Elsewhere, Lenney blissfully contemplates a spoon pilfered from summers spent at a resort, a scarf knitted during Hamlet rehearsals, a black dress that has escorted her through a temperamental acting career. One of the book’s most moving entries also happens to be its shortest: a strikingly gorgeous, two-page homage to Lenney’s daughter, portrayed as a young girl bouncing in the sun trailing a kite flush with bright streamers. Though she does tend to wander off on expository jaunts in less-engaging essays, the author remains a lyrical observer of everyday objects. Indeed, her truest passion lies in the heartfelt sentimentality for those things that “tether us to place and people and the past, to feeling and thought, to each other and ourselves, to some admittedly elusive understanding of the passage of time.”

An eclectic treasury of the cherished and the evocative.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61902-300-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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BECOMING

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...

NIGHT

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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