Wrenchingly painful, but intensely affecting.



Novelist Burgess (Exposures, 2005, etc.) expressively and excruciatingly chronicles her emotional struggle when cancer afflicts her husband.

It may seem odd that nearly every scene is infused with aromas, plant life, outdoor atmospherics, colors, food and wine, but this approach is appropriate: From the moment Burgess met and fell in love with Ken Grunzweig in 1988, it was apparent that their shared appreciation of the sensuous pleasures of being human was a central element in their bond. She was 31, really in love for the first time; he was 44 and had endured the gruesome deaths of two wives. Despite these traumas, Ken remained an unusually self-aware, evolved, giving man. The couple continued in thrall to each other as they raised two kids, first in the San Francisco Bay area and then in Spokane, Wash. Fourteen years into their joyful marriage, cancer struck Ken. Narrating the subsequent barrage of medical treatments and uncertainty, Burgess lyrically and perceptively explores how the body, emotions and experiences are connected, how love and misfortune affect that landscape. The author’s strained relationship with her mother, and Ken’s with his adult daughter, further illuminate these inquiries. Describing chemotherapy medicines as “priceless bags of chemical hope” may seem excessive, but Burgess’s romantic prose only rarely seems overwritten. In the context of her attempts to unearth understanding from such a devastating event, the gush of feeling tugs the reader along on a difficult ride during which insight is the only comfort and stabbing inevitability underlies every embrace and home-cooked meal. Burgess self-identifies as a proponent of science over religion, but there is a generous helping of “Spiritual Lite” (the title of one chapter), including a vision of the dead. These forays into the mystical do not go unexamined; the author examines how the idea of “God” helps her and Ken to confront his illness.

Wrenchingly painful, but intensely affecting.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7679-2859-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?