A memoir of an admirable, faith-based life, but one that ultimately provides little insight into its author.

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MY HOME SWEET HOME (A Life of Commitment with Contentment)

Waken (My Home Sweet Home: Surviving an Abusive Relationship, 2013) offers a memoir about how unshakable faith carried her through decades of joy and family turmoil.

Following the death of her abusive husband, the author navigates life as a single mother with four children. Waken documents her life in close detail from the early 1960s through the first decade of the new millennium, crediting her Christian faith with giving her the strength to endure challenges great and small—including supporting her family, her son’s near-fatal car accident when he was 17, and moving from Michigan to Alaska at the age of 55. She gives equal weight to life-changing and mundane moments of her life, often pausing to reflect on small blessings: “It is my home sweet home, no matter how humble. I am thankful for a job so I can afford a place to live and have food to eat. Thank you, Lord, You have provided for me and my family for many years.” It’s easy to admire Waken’s humility and her gumption; her memoir details her grace under pressure and her frequent travels to help her family members through myriad struggles. However, the cast of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends who pop in and out of Waken’s story quickly start to blend together. The book often reads more like a personal journal than a memoir, and provides little scene-setting or characterization. Waken frequently mentions the beauty of her beloved Alaska, but provides few descriptive details to place readers there. Likewise, although the book ends with a tragic loss, Waken dedicates more time to outlining the relevant facts of the event than exploring her feelings about the loss and its impact. The book will likely appeal primarily to a Christian audience, who may be more willing to overlook some of its narrative flaws.

A memoir of an admirable, faith-based life, but one that ultimately provides little insight into its author. 

Pub Date: July 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483662770

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2014

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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