A thoughtful, unique meditation on exile and homecoming.



A Moscow-born, London-based writer and editor’s memoir about the impact her peripatetic, multilingual background had on her development.

In 2002, Lappin (The Nose, 2001, etc.) received a surprise call from a relative who told her the name and whereabouts of her biological father, a man she had never known. The revelation marked the start of the author’s re-evaluation of a life that had begun in Moscow in 1954 but had taken her to Prague, Hamburg, Tel Aviv, Ottawa, Westchester County, New York, and finally, London. Though Russian by birth, Lappin never had a chance to “grow into my mother tongue.” When she was almost 4, her half-Jewish mother—and the Jewish husband Lappin knew as her father—moved to Czechoslovakia, where Lappin would spend the next 12 years imbibing Czech language and culture while “living under the leaky umbrella of totalitarianism.” While maintaining fluency in Russian and learning French, Lappin watched Czechoslovakia evolve from a Soviet-influenced state into one under full Soviet control. In 1970 her parents moved to West Germany, where Lappin would spend the remainder of her adolescence becoming fluent in German and English but speaking Czech to her brother and Russian to her parents. As liberal as the social and political environments were, the author never felt at home in Germany. She moved again to Israel, where she felt a greater sense of belonging among Jews who “arrive[d] from anywhere and [spoke] any language.” But it was only after a much later move to New York that the “invisible strands” of Lappin’s life came together and she realized that English—a language she chose rather than one that had been foisted upon her—was the best suited to her work as a writer. A meditation on family secrets, loss, and personal belonging, Lappin’s book reveals how, in the absence of rootedness, language can become the “shelter” and home that nurtures selfhood and identity.

A thoughtful, unique meditation on exile and homecoming.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61902-911-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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?