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Readers will enjoy Caldwell’s thoughtful, wide-eyed view of the world around her and her musings on how we get our bearings...

Making the most of a new lease on life.

Caldwell (Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, 2010, etc.) has had a writing career intertwined with the writer Caroline Knapp (Drinking: A Love Story, 1997, etc.), as the two friends supported each other through challenges big and small. They’ve played roles in each other’s memoirs; this time, Knapp’s role is posthumous (she died in 2002) but no less important. Caldwell takes the death of her friend, lost to cancer, as one of three leaping-off points. She also deals with the deaths of both her mother and her dog, and while these three losses happen in a 10-year span, they comprise a loss of nearly all the closest companions she has known. “One of the things you miss after someone dies is the shared fact of you. The we of me,” she writes: “The existential anchor,” and as we know, without an anchor, there is drift. The author’s drift is our gain, though, as she ably explores the shifts of our hearts as we grieve. Her body underwent shifts as well; a case of polio from early childhood reared up again, leaving her barely ambulatory. While the heart’s ailments took longer to heal, at least in Caldwell’s case, science could assist the body. A common surgery, it turned out, could return her to full mobility; when it did, she experienced a renewed vigor in easing the emotional pain. She adopted a dog, wondering if she had waited long enough after her last dog passed away. As she explores the elastic boundaries of the heart in giving and taking new beings into our lives, she discusses her reconnection with the community around her.

Readers will enjoy Caldwell’s thoughtful, wide-eyed view of the world around her and her musings on how we get our bearings in midlife.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6954-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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