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

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THE LONGEST NIGHT

A PERSONAL HISTORY OF PAN AM 103

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

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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