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Uplifting, heretical or irrelevant, depending on the reader’s religious beliefs.

Reece (Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness, 2006) identifies and advocates a strain of American spirituality that values the philosophical wisdom of Jesus over his function as a savior.

The author assures us that he has found numerous precedents in American thought for a spirituality that merges the proven benefits of religious devotion with a more progressive social agenda, all while skipping the leaps of faith required to believe in the Resurrection and the Life Everlasting. Reece points to several revered thinkers, including Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and fellow Kentuckian Wendell Berry, who reject fundamentalism’s emphasis on the hereafter as destructive to the human spirit and to the environment, yet keep the radically compassionate message of Jesus intact. The kingdom of God is not in the afterlife, they believe, but all around us. This “good news” has its philosophical basis in the controversial Gospel of Thomas, which Reece claims as the most authentic representation of Jesus’ teachings. For the author, the search for an alternative to the dominant Puritan reading of the Gospels resulted from witnessing the devastating psychological effects of fundamentalism on his grandfather and father, both Baptist ministers. Reece’s grandfather found solace in a strict dualism of right and wrong, heaven and hell, whereas his father lost the struggle with feelings of doubt and depravity, eventually committing suicide. For the most part, Reece uses these autobiographical details as powerful illustrations, not expressive ends unto themselves—although his own story underlies the narrative throughout. Written with a scholar’s precision but in frank, readable prose, the book advances an optimistic, intellectual, environmentalist reclamation of sacred Christian beliefs and of Americans’ complex relationship with Jesus.

Uplifting, heretical or irrelevant, depending on the reader’s religious beliefs.

Pub Date: April 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59448-859-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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