A turbulent life to be both pitied and envied, and a book to be savored and reread.

Loving tribute to an unorthodox family.

In Allende’s acclaimed memoir Paula (1995), the Chilean-born novelist told the story of her tumultuous life in the form of a letter to her beloved, recently deceased daughter. This follow-up picks up the story where the previous book left off, in the guise of keeping the spirit Paula informed of the goings-on in her noisy, exuberant, sometimes tragic extended family. Studded with incredible, often soap-operatic events, the stories here could be melodramatic or even self-indulgent. Instead, burnished by the author’s enormous affection for (almost) every character, the book coalesces into a warm meditation on family and love. After the devastation of Paula’s yearlong decline and eventual death, Allende undertook to gather her fractured clan around her in northern California, where she lived with her American husband Willie. She writes of the couple’s attempts to save his daughter Jennifer. When the drug-addicted young woman lost custody of her fragile, premature baby girl, they found Sabrina a home with a lesbian couple in a Zen monastery. Jennifer was allowed to visit her daughter, but she grew steadily weaker and vanished not long before Sabrina’s first birthday. We also learn of the author’s turbulent but loving relationship with her contrarian, hotheaded daughter-in-law, who fractured the family by leaving Allende’s son Nico for the woman engaged to Willie’s stepson. In the same tell-all spirit, the writer discusses the various heartaches of her steadfast friends, Tabra and Juliette; her successful courtship of the woman she wanted to be Nico’s second wife (they are now happily married); her own numerous parenting and marital missteps; and the painful process of getting over her daughter’s death.

A turbulent life to be both pitied and envied, and a book to be savored and reread.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-155183-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008


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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