An unvarnished account of a boundary-pushing procedure and patient.

The candid self-portrait of a woman who, years deep in depression’s clutches, mustered the courage to live again by way of dying.

In her third book, acclaimed “mommy blogger” Armstrong (Dear Daughter: The Best of the Dear Leta Letters, 2012, etc.), the founder of the popular website dooce, tells the intriguing story of how she was put into a coma 10 times as part of a controversial experimental procedure to overcome severe clinical depression. In a narrative that is part cathartic confessional, part apology to those who stood by her through years of anguish and recovery, and part accessible explanation of a highly scientific procedure, the author takes readers on a room-by-room tour of events leading to the treatment that finally helped her overcome her depression. “I’d been almost brain-dead for fifteen minutes,” she writes of the first session. “I felt fantastic! When you want to be dead, there’s nothing quite like being dead. And boy, did I do dead well.” Chronicling how the anesthesiologists used propofol (“the Michael Jackson drug”) to induce the coma, the author writes that “the study is designed to determine if ‘burst suppression’—quieting the brain’s electrical activity—can alleviate the symptoms of depression.” Later, she continues, “it’s like rebooting a computer. Anyone who has ever had problems with a computer knows that sometimes you have to turn it on and off again several times to fix whatever glitch was causing all your applications to crash.” Instead of detailing the personal hells of the glitch itself, Armstrong tactfully walks around it, poring over past failed therapies. She provides an experiential blow-by-blow chronicle of the test study, its effects on her daily life, the progressive improvement of her condition, and the reactions of her daughters, unconditionally dedicated mother, and the team of specialists overseeing the closely monitored deaths and rebirths that ultimately led to her victory.

An unvarnished account of a boundary-pushing procedure and patient.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9704-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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