A brief, adequate memoir in which the author attempts to decipher his complicated, multilayered childhood in order to...

A French writer takes a close look at his family’s dysfunctional dynamics.

Le Tellier (Eléctrico W, 2013, etc.)—a member of Oulipo, the eccentric French group of writers and mathematicians who seek to create works within constrained writing techniques—places his life under the microscope to examine his childhood and the people and places that affected him throughout his life. He shares intimate and minute details about his great-grandparents, grandparents, father, mother, and stepfather and how each person changed him as he was growing up. Sometimes the changes were subtle, other times more profound, but the author explores each with the advantage of age and wisdom looking back at youth. Le Tellier focuses in particular on his mother and her childhood before moving on to chronicle how she treated him poorly as a young adult and the incredible lies she told him. Much of her behavior was caused by the fact that she was likely “crazy” and “had lost touch with reality.” Eventually, writes the author, her “madness descended into burlesque.” Nonetheless, Le Tellier longed for his mother’s love; then she became ill with Alzheimer’s, and the situation deteriorated further. In some of the more moving moments, the author reflects on what life was like in France under the Nazis, how deeply he was affected by a film on the concentration camps, and how the deaths of important childhood friends and a girlfriend have impacted his life. Through the process of writing this memoir, it’s apparent Le Tellier is coming to terms with the many fraught relationships of his life and the successes and disappointments he experienced during his youth. The writing is unquestionably sincere, but the story is overly particular and may not resonate much beyond the author’s intimate circle.

A brief, adequate memoir in which the author attempts to decipher his complicated, multilayered childhood in order to understand the adult he is today.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-937-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018


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

Close Quickview