Ripeness Is All


A broad examination of life, philosophy, and Christianity that still manages to feel personal and powerfully intimate.

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Carrier’s memoir doubles as a treatise that carefully examines life and the Christian faith.

Carrier’s work is roughly broken into three movements: autobiography, ideas and concepts, and a declaration of faith. Throughout all three, he strikes a tone balanced between casual conversation and rigorous lecture—unsurprising given his many degrees, long tenure as a professor, and zany humor. He looks back at his younger self with a careful, analytical eye. As he goes from unwanted stepchild in a mansion to football star in a small Mississippi town at the beginning of the 1960s, his insightful observations reveal the moments that shaped him: for instance, his concern for a beagle above all else or the realization that a black maid was both “invisible and indispensable.” His tumultuous young adulthood as well as transformative religious experiences set the stage for the second section, which moves with a remarkable pace through many major events and changes of late-20th-century America. Intellectual movements, scientific discoveries, and pop culture all play into the notion of zeitgeist, what he calls “The Culture.” He relates all of it back to his own faith, working from a central argument that modern Christianity ought to abandon certain practices and more openly connect with the contemporary secular world. At times, the book’s audacious scope is overwhelming. However, just when readers start to feel lost in a bombardment of references or an especially dense assertion, Carrier’s own life interjects. Bracketed sections break away from the topic at hand to update the reader on his autistic brother, Michael, who was dying of cancer as Carrier was writing. These digressions make the work feel like a naturally unfolding narrative as Carrier moves from tangent to tangent while being interrupted by the unstoppable forces of life.

A broad examination of life, philosophy, and Christianity that still manages to feel personal and powerfully intimate.

Pub Date: April 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63417-798-6

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Page Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015


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



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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