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Gentle reflections on love, family, and heritage.

A writer’s life amid tremors of war.

In his debut book of nonfiction, Israeli writer Keret (Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, 2012, etc.) chronicles seven years bracketed by two momentous events: the birth of his son, Lev, and his father’s death from cancer. The author represents each year with a handful of musings, some serious, others frothy. He recounts an absurd conversation with a telemarketer, for example; silly dedications he makes up during Hebrew Book Week; growing a mustache as a birthday present for his son; his lackluster efforts to exercise; and Lev’s many cute remarks. The best pieces are quietly moving. After a neighbor asked him if he had considered whether his son, then 3, would join the army, Keret was surprised that his wife had already made her decision. “I don’t want him to go into the army,” she announced. Would she rather have other people’s children fight instead? Keret asked heatedly. “I’m saying that we could have reached a peaceful solution a long time ago, and we still can,” she replied, but not if Israeli leaders “know that most people are like you: they won’t hesitate to put their children’s lives into the government’s irresponsible hands.” One day as they were driving, an air-raid siren blared. Lev refused to lie down on the side of the road until Keret devised a game of “Pastrami Sandwich,” with he and his wife as the two slices of bread and Lev the pastrami between them. It was such fun that Lev wanted to play Pastrami “if there’s another siren…but what if there aren’t any more sirens ever?” he worried. “I think there’ll be at least one or two more,” Keret assured him. After a Polish architect built the author a minimalist house in Warsaw, reflecting his stories’ spare structures, Keret sat in the kitchen eating jam “sour with memories.” His mother grew up in Warsaw and became an orphan after the Nazis killed her family.

Gentle reflections on love, family, and heritage.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59463-326-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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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