A diligently gathered series of personal stories shows a world defined by difficulty and complexity.



An American Jew of Israeli parents returns to Israel to delve into the complicated makeup of that country’s society and demographics.

In his latest book, Michaeli, a Jewish author and activist who hails from Chicago, returns to the adopted land of his parents, early kibbutzim residents who survived the Holocaust. During several years of visits from 2014 to 2018, the author interviewed Israeli citizens and refugees in order to document their stories of survival and aspiration. Though the narrative initially lacks a concrete theme and meanders, Michaeli eventually hits his stride, offering useful, focused sociological portraits of his many subjects. “My goal was to document Israel at this crucial historical moment,” he writes, “and so I kept my literary lens at street level, letting conversations unspool and allowing people to speak for themselves.” On his first visit, when bombs were falling between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, he visited his brother, Gabriel, 17 years his senior, who was born on a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee. Gabi, a lawyer, opened a whole world of contacts for his brother, and the narrative progresses through a wide-ranging variety of on-the-ground reportage, uncovering a teeming world of Israelis and Palestinians working and living in uneasy proximity. Whether visiting the Tel Aviv suburbs, fashionable cafes in Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Ponevezh Yeshiva, “one of the essential institutions of the Haredi world,” Michaeli reveals aspects of the country’s character that historians and journalists have been unable to capture. “Neither a cautionary tale nor an international role model, Israel is a microcosm, a tiny domain that contains the truth of how the world really works,” writes the author. “The state’s survival will be determined, then, by the extent to which it is able to accommodate all its tribes, creating a system that respects each tribe’s integrity, but ensures that all are able to contribute to the collective.”

A diligently gathered series of personal stories shows a world defined by difficulty and complexity.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-268885-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.


The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Strictly for dittoheads.


An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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