A well-wrought memoir that turns simple observations and memories into powerful illustrations of grief and illness.

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THE FAMILY TOOTH

A MEMOIR

A writer recounts the emotions and memories of losing her mother and battling cancer.

“Have you ever heard a tooth smash?” Avery (The Last Nude, 2012, etc.) asks readers early on. “It’s a tiny sound, and a terrifying one.” Avery, winner of the Lambda Literary Award, offers 15 autobiographical essays about grief, death, and illness—and on almost every page includes a powerful observation, usually both tiny and terrifying. In 2011, the author received word that her mother had died, and in her essays dealing with her grief, she weaves together short, piercing moments ranging from childhood to the months after the funeral. By moving nonchronologically from her mother’s alcoholism to family Christmas fights to selling her mother’s jewelry after her death, Avery avoids simplifying her mother or their relationship, offering instead an emotionally driven and complex portrait of her family and of herself. Avery also writes about her deteriorating health, overhauling her diet, and the search for alternative treatments to fight cancer and arthritis. Months after her mother died, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called reactive arthritis, and the medication she takes subsequently led to the development of a rare form of uterine cancer. By her own admission in the introduction, some of the essays, like “Goodbye Ruby,” delve deeply into the technical aspects of her conditions to help readers facing the specific health challenges she did. But even as she explains dense research and terminology or painstakingly recounts frustrating conversations with doctors, she anchors every new challenge with carefully crafted and insightful moments of everyday life. A small child interacting with a cat, a simple trip to the grocery store, or her most embarrassing struggles with menstruation take on fascinating new depth in the context of her illness. As Avery waits in a hospital at one point, she writes dryly about her thoughts with each bouquet of flowers that arrives, “You have cancer. You are getting a hysterectomy. You might die.” Her narration throughout this heavy subject matter strikes an uncanny balance between funny and sad because she has taken the time to pay attention to the details in every moment and has written about them with honesty and wisdom.  

A well-wrought memoir that turns simple observations and memories into powerful illustrations of grief and illness.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Seventeen Reasons

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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