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A small fortune could be made by bottling this story and selling it as an antidote to self-pity. Frey will have to settle...

A story of post-rehab, post-prison that’s about as comforting as a sawn-off shotgun with a dark angel in attendance.

“I have spent twenty-three years destroying myself and everything and everyone around me and I don’t want to live that way anymore,” writes Frey (A Million Little Pieces, 2003). He isn’t blowing smoke. We meet him, an alcoholic and a drug addict, just as he’s finishing a little stint in prison. He has survived, and that is what he intends to keep on doing, though his personal Furies—fortified wine and crack—rarely give him a moment’s peace, and his delicate-as-porcelain love, Lilly, hanged herself in despair just hours before his release (she, too, was trying to simply survive, living in a half-way house: “She wanted to go to college . . . she had seven books, all textbooks,” Frey writes, tearing your heart out). With a fortitude that is a wonder to behold, Frey maintains his sobriety, taking menial jobs because he hasn’t exactly got a sparkling resume. He also has a friend in Leonard, his mobster guardian, who gets Frey hooked up with some better paying gigs (illegal and thus another problem) and who’s always there to steer Frey clear of intoxicants and toward the simple pleasures, like good food and Cuban cigars. Frey works at longer-term commitments, but the hurt of Lilly’s loss keeps him hesitant. He focuses instead on writing—who’d have thought? But the fruits are here to witness: a fine, grim tale, full of smarting immediacy, with stylistic tics—repetitions, an aversion to commas, run-ons—that skip close to the irritating but lend a musicality and remind the reader to pay attention: “I finish and I take a deep breath it has been a long night I’m worried about Lilly.” The anguish is only beginning.

A small fortune could be made by bottling this story and selling it as an antidote to self-pity. Frey will have to settle for the small fortune it will make in big sales.

Pub Date: June 16, 2005

ISBN: 1-57322-315-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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

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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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