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Faithful attempt. Still, it could be that you had to be there.

Forced to relocate from downtown Manhattan after 9/11, a career woman discovers warmth, camaraderie and more in a small-town barroom.

Here’s one for you: there’s this tavern run by, of all things, an Irishman. But for Wall Street Journal columnist Bounds (“call me Wendy”), a displaced renter in Garrison, N.Y., after the Twin Towers fell too close to her apartment building, one of the most entrenched clichés in America’s alcohol culture becomes a place of refuge and reflection. As the author plumbs the boozy ambience of Guinan’s, hard by the Hudson River across from West Point, the aging diabetic owner Jim Guinan and his daughter Margaret, a somewhat hard-bitten detective on the local force who essentially runs the place in her off-hours, lead a cast of characters—their customers—who tend to become poets and philosophers instantly upon entry. The good and bad news here is that everyone who has frequented a similar venue to the extent that it becomes known as one’s watering-hole has met and enjoyed—or sometimes been appalled by—people like these. The lawyer, the salesman, the silent war hero, the guy down on his luck, the guy with the bad jokes: all are in residence as components in the slice-of-life Bounds offers with the implication that the reader should look beyond stereotypes, as does she. But it’s not until some 60 pages have gone by in this encounter between the willowy blonde in her early 30s and the predominantly older males who belly up at Guinan’s, that the reader is let in on the fact that she’s in a gay relationship. Later, when she realizes she must, in a lip-biting encounter, explain to Jim that “Kathryn is not my sister,” it provides one of the memoir’s few originally engaging scenes.

Faithful attempt. Still, it could be that you had to be there.

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-056406-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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