A riveting biography of a remarkable man.

The making of an unlikely hero.

To his prominent and wealthy relatives, Raoul Wallenberg (b. 1912) seemed not dependable enough to entrust with a responsible position in the family’s bank. As journalist Carlberg depicts him in this absorbing, masterful biography, Wallenberg was “charming, extroverted and creative, but also somewhat impulsive.” “He was very much a salesman,” a friend recalled. “He was almost always happy. And funny,” amusing his friends, in the 1930s, with imitations of Hitler, Churchill, and Stalin. After training as an architect at the University of Michigan and then working in South Africa and Haifa, Wallenberg returned to his native Sweden to seek employment. In 1941, he became an instructor in the National Home Guard, earning praise for being “more skilled and creative…than many of the career military.” Soon, he found a paying job as foreign director of a Swedish food import company owned by a Hungarian Jew. That was the position he held when, in June 1944, he was tapped to carry out a rescue mission for the American War Refugee Board, in alliance with Sweden. Multilingual, with high-level Hungarian business contacts, he seemed the perfect person: “highly skilled, of good reputation, [and] a non-Jew.” Only Stockholm’s chief rabbi was skeptical, concerned that Wallenberg’s real motivation was “a desire for adventure.” Carlberg’s tense, detailed narrative traces Wallenberg’s work in Budapest, beginning in July 1944. Starting with a handful of employees, by year’s end, he had 300. His talent at diplomacy—he had dinner with the furious, alcoholic Adolph Eichmann—was matched with bold subterfuge, as he managed to put huge numbers of Jews under Swedish protection. But efforts to exterminate them were relentless. Wallenberg placed his hopes in the Russians; although Soviet troops freed over 100,000 Jews living in a sealed ghetto, in 1945, Wallenberg was arrested as a spy and disappeared.

A riveting biography of a remarkable man.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68144-490-1

Page Count: 640

Publisher: MacLehose/Quercus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 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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