A thoughtful consideration of the limits of familial loyalty.

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Simkovits recounts his struggle to come to terms with his father’s morally questionable financial dealings in this first memoir in a series.

The debut author grew up in Montreal and loved his larger-than-life father, Johnny—a gregarious and successful entrepreneur in the record player manufacturing industry. Johnny was born in Czechoslovakia, fought in four different armies during World War II, and escaped Soviet tyranny. Simkovits also portrays his father as a man of elastic ethical principle—a heavy-drinking philanderer who was involved in “deceitful tax-avoiding ways” that included concealing wealth in offshore bank accounts. In his younger days, the author was eager to win his father’s approval, so he adopted his spendthrift habits. But after Simkovits came to understand the emotional pain that his dad had inflicted upon his dutiful mother, he came to regret what felt like his own complicity. He captures this emotional situation in lucid prose: “I had tried to be a loyal and trusting biblical Isaac to my revered Abraham father. At some juncture, I started to feel as if I were being led up a mount for my sacrifice to a false money god.” After his father died, the author inherited his father’s “hidden hoard,” much of it illicitly shielded from taxation, and he felt that he had no choice but to reveal the shame he’d been harboring. Simkovits also chronicles his own childhood as well as Johnny’s difficult youth and later professional success. The author’s remembrance is impressively sensitive as he tells of his father’s financial skulduggery, and he unabashedly shares his admiration for him, as well. He realistically portrays his complex parent as a man of contradictions; for example, he describes his father as a “cold weather Catholic” who often golfed during warm Sundays instead of going to church but who also earnestly insisted that his sons be “good Catholics.” The author astutely presents his father’s justification for his financial “shenanigans”: “A lot of wealthy people do this. We should not be any different than the rest.” Simkovits’ recounting tends to meander a bit at times, but this never undermines the intelligent story that he tells.

A thoughtful consideration of the limits of familial loyalty.

Pub Date: June 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9773957-3-6

Page Count: 468

Publisher: Wise Press

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2019



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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