Fails to scale the literary heights of Arlene Blum’s Annapurna: A Woman’s Place (1982) in the canon of women’s...

A memoir of mountaineering and life by a Canadian alpinist.

In 1972, 14-year-old Redford moved from the Yukon to Ontario with her family. It wasn’t a happy time, she writes, with an overworked mother and a father who retreated into a bottle; she sublimated by climbing such heights as she could find to “blow off some of this fuck you! anger.” The confused teenager morphed into an adult with a yen for fellow climbing fools who live dangerously and sometimes pay the price. A tragedy, major or minor, comes along every couple of dozen pages, peppered with plenty of near misses (“I’d chopped my rope and I’d almost killed my friend”) that, in the way of mountaineers, get shrugged off (“I’m still here, aren’t I?”). The author’s firsthand look into the mores of the climbing tribe is occasionally overheated but seldom digs deep; it’s a matter of cold beers, righteous peaks, and free-wheeling clichés (“I’d never get sucked into a middle-class existence again…it was a thinly disguised form of enslavement”). Her reckoning with the conflicting demands of marriage and motherhood is often superficial: “If the boys came back with the second ascent of the Rupal Face and, on top of that, Everest, they’d be heroes. I’d be just another woman who’d popped out a baby.” However, Redford hits true-sounding notes when she contemplates how mountaineering women who had scaled Everest and other big peaks and then had children and retired from the sport were at least alive to tell the tale. Better, and worth the price of admission, are Redford’s up-close encounters with the rock itself: “Ropey tendons popped up on the backs of my hands, white with chalk as I clamped down on each hold like a vise. There was no noise in my head, no voices telling me what I could or could not do.”

Fails to scale the literary heights of Arlene Blum’s Annapurna: A Woman’s Place (1982) in the canon of women’s mountaineering books but still worthy for aspiring climbers

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-030-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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

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