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THE LONGEST NIGHT

A PERSONAL HISTORY OF PAN AM 103

Engelhardt is an accomplished poet and writer, and there is not a single significant misstep in this moving and engrossing...

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

In her debut memoir, Engelhardt writes about losing her husband, Tony Hawkins, who was on Pan Am Flight 103 that was blown out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, in the 1988 terrorist attack.

Hawkins was returning home to Brooklyn after a short visit to his native England. He was 57 and left behind his wife, Helen, and their son, Alan, who just turned 6. They’d had 16 years together; Alan was the late-life—and very precocious—child that they doted on. The book recounts that first year after Lockerbie but also looks back and recalls both the good times and the hard times. Like all marriages, theirs was not without challenges, but their love was rock-solid. And such lacerating irony: Tony was supposed to fly home a day earlier but begged an extra day to tie up loose ends. So many had stories like that to tell; others were supposed to make that flight but were saved by their “bad luck.” With other survivors, Engelhardt organized the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 and began lobbying, marching, protesting, writing letters (and newsletters), badgering whatever powers they thought could and should do more. She became all too familiar with the media and no fan of it. Engelhardt knows how to work up drama, switching between accounts of the couple’s honeymoon in Europe and accounts of the crash 16 years later, oscillating in time between the two and thus accentuating the horror. Engelhardt’s quietly moving poem to Tony and their love (“There Was So Much to Love”) provides the only imaginable coda to a memoir that begins with her prose poem titled “Incident at Altitude, 12/21/88,” which launches us into the nightmare. Thus is it bookended. The narrative of course brims with details both public and private. For the most part, Engelhardt writes clearly and with tight control, knowing that histrionics would cheapen her story. Such restraint makes the telling all the more powerful.

Engelhardt is an accomplished poet and writer, and there is not a single significant misstep in this moving and engrossing book.

Pub Date: June 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9851138-5-8

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Midsummer Sound Company, LLC

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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