An eloquent, poignant memoir.



An acclaimed food writer and memoirist’s account of the codependent relationship she had with her charming and outrageous—but also very difficult—mother.

Altman (Treyf: My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw, 2016, etc.) was raised by a beautiful Manhattan singer named Rita. Obsessed with makeup, clothes, and her youthful brush with fame, Rita was both narcissistic and overwhelming. Rather than accept her daughter as a girl who loved to wear suits and had no interest in the world of celebrity, Rita attempted to remake her in her own glamorous image, with results that were as humorous as they were painful. Indeed, the only time Rita would show her daughter the approval for which she hungered was when Altman dressed fashionably and flaunted her body. Deeply attached to each other but prone to endless fighting, Altman and her mother became each other’s “intoxicant of choice” until the author finally moved from New York to New England to live with and then marry a woman named Susan. Over the next two decades, the author built a quiet, independent life apart from her mother, allowing her the space to forge her own identity. Yet she still connected with Rita daily by telephone and watched her spend money—which Altman quietly replaced—on the expensive makeup her girlish heart desired rather than the health care her aging body required. Then Rita suffered a debilitating fall that left her unable to “use the bathroom, organize her pills, or navigate her space in a wheelchair.” Altman suddenly realized that, like it or not, the mother from whom she had struggled to break free and who she once thought was “unbreakable [and] unstoppable” was now totally dependent on her. Funny, raw, and tender, Altman’s book examines the inevitable role reversals that occur in parent-child relationships while laying bare a mother-daughter relationship that is both entertaining and excruciating.

An eloquent, poignant memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-18158-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

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?