A slice of American life carved out by a master of the form.




A captivating portrait of a day in the life of the United States by a much-honored Washington Post journalist.

Weingarten (The Fiddler on the Subway, 2010, etc.), the only two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, notes at the beginning that only one of his previous books has “even approached commercial success.” His latest book is his most ambitious, with the author showing how much art a great journalist can wrest from a literary stunt with a theme as old as that of Thornton Wilder’s in Our Town: Each day is remarkable in its own way. He chose a date at random—Dec. 28, 1986—and then found people for whom its events indelibly stamped all the days that followed. He admits that “it was a stunt. But I like stunts, particularly if they can illuminate unexpected truths…although great matters make for strong narratives, power can also lurk in the latent and mundane.” Some of his entries give memorable glimpses of celebrities, among them New York City mayor Ed Koch, Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, and dooce website founder Heather Armstrong. But Weingarten offers equally vivid profiles of the less well known. They include Prentice Rasheed, a Miami shopkeeper who accidentally electrocuted a burglar with a homemade booby trap he’d installed to deter intruders; Brad Wilson, who walked away after his helicopter flipped over and crashed during a fishing trip in the Pacific Northwest; and Eva Baisey, a nursing student from Washington, D.C., who had implanted in her body the heart of a dead murderer and who improbably has become “one of the longest-living transplant patients on the planet.” One of the finest plain-prose stylists in American journalism, Weingarten tells his elegantly structured stories without sentimentality or melodrama, a virtue especially apparent in his story of two policemen who rushed into a flaming house in Falls City, Nebraska, hoping in vain to save a 2-year-old boy and 1-year-girl.

A slice of American life carved out by a master of the form.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16666-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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