A solid addition to Holocaust literature.

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THE HAPPIEST MAN ON EARTH

THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE OF AN AUSCHWITZ SURVIVOR

Uplifting memoir from a Holocaust survivor.

After Hitler took power in 1933, he expelled all Jewish students from schools, include the teenage Jaku (b. 1920), member of a prosperous Leipzig family. Using his influence in the community, the author’s father obtained false papers for his son and enrolled him in an elite engineering school far across the country. After five years of living alone as a gentile under an assumed name, he graduated at the top of his class. In November 1938, hoping to surprise his parents on their 20th wedding anniversary, he returned home only to find the house empty. His parents were in hiding because it was the infamous Kristallnacht, when Jews endured massive atrocities across Germany. That evening, thugs beat him brutally before sending him to the new Buchenwald concentration camp, where he remained for six months under appalling conditions. Upon his discharge, his family fled to Belgium. After the Nazi invasion in May 1940, he fled again, walking to the south of France, where he was arrested. After spending seven months in a French concentration camp, he was loaded onto a train for Auschwitz but escaped and made his way back to Belgium to join his family in hiding. All were arrested in 1943 and sent to Auschwitz, where his parents were killed and he became a slave laborer. Readers will be horrified by Jaku’s painful description of the unspeakable conditions and sadistic treatment he received. He survived only through determination, cooperation with a friend, luck, and his engineering skills, which gave him some privileges. After the war, he returned to Belgium and married, but he found the country unwelcoming and moved to Australia, where he still lives with his wife and large family. Some readers may find Jaku’s account of his long, prosperous life after Auschwitz anticlimactic, but no one will deny that he deserves it.

A solid addition to Holocaust literature.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-309768-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

THE DEFENSE LAWYER

THE BARRY SLOTNICK STORY

The Patterson publishing machine clanks its way into the nonfiction aisles in this lumbering courtroom drama.

Barry Slotnick made a considerable fortune and reputation as a defense attorney who had a long list of controversial clients, including mob boss John Gotti and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. An “urbane lawyer known for his twenty-five-hundred-dollar Fioravanti suits, he was not unacquainted with violence,” write Patterson and Wallace. One of his early cases, indeed, involved a group of Jewish Defense League members who allegedly blew up a Broadway producer’s office, killing a woman who worked there. Slotnick’s defense was a standard confuse-the-jury ploy, but it worked. He put similar tactics to work in his defense of Bernhard Goetz, the “subway shooter” whose trial made international news. The authors open after that trial had concluded in yet another Slotnick win, and with a sensational incident: He was attacked by a masked man who beat him with a baseball bat. The evidence is sketchy, but it seems to place the attack in the hands of organized crime—perhaps even Gotti himself. No matter: Slotnick, “who saw himself as the foe of the all-powerful government” and “liberty’s last champion,” was soon back to representing clients including Radovan Karadžić, the murderous Bosnian Serb who was eventually imprisoned for having committed genocide; Dewi Sukarno, the widow of Indonesia’s similarly bloodstained president, “arrested for slashing the face of a fellow socialite with a broken champagne glass at a party in Aspen”; and Melania Trump, who had chosen Slotnick “to handle her prenup.” In the hands of a John Grisham, the story might have come to life, but while Patterson does a serviceable if cliché-ridden job of recounting Slotnick’s career, he fails to give readers much reason to admire the man.

For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49437-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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