A profoundly human narrative that transcends nationality and ideology.



A memoir of the war you can’t leave behind.

For Ackerman (Waiting for Eden, 2018, etc.), a former Marine who earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart, and so many of the others he met during his return to the battlefronts of the Middle East, there was no good reason for them to be drawn back there other than the feeling that war had given their lives purpose and that civilian life offered no fulfilling substitute. “If purpose is the drug that induces happiness,” he writes, “there are few stronger doses than the wartime experience.” The equation of war with happiness may jolt readers who haven’t seen combat, but the power of this memoir comes from the author’s illumination of paradoxes and contradictions that provide a common emotional denominator for soldiers who previously found themselves in wars where they discovered more than two sides. “For a moment we sit, three veterans from three different sides of a war that has no end in sight,” writes Ackerman of his bonding with two friends who might have been categorized as Muslim terrorists, one of whom would later ask him to be best man at his wedding. “Not the Syrian Civil War, or the Iraq War, but a larger regional conflict,” one in which they discovered “a unifying thread between us: friendships born out of conflict, the strongest we’ve ever known.” Throughout the poignant narrative there is a sense that the Americans for whom the author has fought have misunderstood the Muslims that he has fought against and that the boundaries dating back to the colonial era have never reflected the ethnic geography of those who inhabit the region. A story in which Ackerman made new friends and confronted old ghosts culminates in a flashback to the Battle of Fallujah and his memories of what took place.

A profoundly human narrative that transcends nationality and ideology.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55996-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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 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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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

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