Framed by narrator Jim Jackson’s high school reunion in the middle-class Southern town of Princeton, W.Va., George’s novel...

REUNION

A 60-year-old man comes to terms with growing up with an alcoholic father in George’s debut novel.

Framed by narrator Jim Jackson’s high school reunion in the middle-class Southern town of Princeton, W.Va., George’s novel spends the bulk of its pages on Jim’s memories of his rather conventional teenage pastimes: ham radio, dances, assisting the school’s venerated football team. In 11th grade, Jim gets a thrilling gig as a Sunday morning radio announcer at the local station and has fun as quasi-roadie to his friends’ rock ’n’ roll band. These ’50s scenes of suburban sock hops and polite teenagers are pleasant to read, but it’s hard to tell if they could possibly have been as bland and unthreatening as George depicts. The worst thing any teen ever does is flirt with someone else’s girlfriend, and despite some discussion of segregation and racism, everyone presented directly is nice as nice can be. Into this narrative of old-fashioned civility thrusts, again and again, the specter of Jim’s alcoholic father, who appears at the end of every chapter or so, coming home drunk from the Elks Club, sometimes vomiting on the front porch. George puts some emotional force into these scenes, but their impact on Jim is only telegraphed. We never get to feel young Jim’s emotions, or even really see them, which greatly lessens the novel’s power. In later sections, the narrator comes right out and tells us that his father’s alcoholism has stunted his own development as a husband and father, but he does so in clinical language: “My inability to engage was a serious flaw”; “Looking back, we were trapped in a web of dysfunctionality.” We abruptly learn that the narrator now has a “sullen” 11-year-old son with “hard blue eyes,” with whom he has a “brittle and unfeeling” relationship, but no history of the relationship is given that could provide insight or invite the reader’s empathy. Still, final chapters on the physical declines and deaths of both Jim’s mother and mother-in-law are moving. And by the end of the book, George conveys Jim’s frustration with his own emotional frigidity and failings as a husband and father in a way that finally edges into raw feeling.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468529678

Page Count: 312

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more