A thoughtful and intriguing chronicle of familial investigation.



A journalist’s account of how she went in search of the true story behind her great-great-grandmother’s life and ghostly reappearances almost a century after her mysterious death.

Julia Staab was a member of the Nordhaus family tree and also “Santa Fe’s most famous ghost.” Born to a well-to-do Jewish family in Germany in the mid-1840s, Julia eventually married a fellow German Jew who went on to become one of Santa Fe’s most prominent and scandal-ridden businessmen. As a child, Nordhaus (The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America, 2011) knew of Julia as one ancestor among others. It was only when she learned that her great-great-grandmother had begun haunting the La Posada Hotel—which had once been the Staab family mansion—that “Julia stopped being quite so dead.” Many years later, Nordhaus came across a family history that told a fascinating story of “forbidden love, inheritance and disinheritance, anger and madness.” Suddenly, understanding Julia’s life took on new importance, especially since the specter of personal loss had begun to cast a shadow over Nordhaus. A trained historian, the author tracked down information about Julia, the Staab family and the worlds they inhabited in archives and libraries and through testing her own DNA. The objective evidence she gathered pointed to an unhappy marriage to a solicitous but dictatorial man, a possible liaison with a powerful archbishop and an attempted suicide. Determined to also understand Julia at an emotional and spiritual level, Nordhaus also turned to psychics, mediums and ghost hunters for information. She ultimately discovered that the truth about Julia and her life did not reside in the facts but rather in the spaces between facts: In the end, she writes, those spaces contain the details “that tell us who we are.”

A thoughtful and intriguing chronicle of familial investigation.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-224921-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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

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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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