A quirky, captivating biography.

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IN SEARCH OF AL HOWIE

An energetic work that chases the legend and captures the life story of premier Canadian extreme-distance runner Al Howie.

In an eccentric sport, Howie stood out. He would run hundreds or thousands of miles cross-country to the starting lines of multiday races—and then run to the next. Like a tour guide, Beasley (The Black Sheep, 2016) explores the cloistered world of extreme-distance running—involving races longer than standard 26.2-mile marathons—where Howie became an icon but never a household name. In 2014, the author found Howie, a silent shell of his former self, at a group home for the mentally ill. During the runner’s final two years, Beasley teased out recollections while tracking down documentary evidence and Howie’s friends and relatives, charting a path through memories and mythology. Howie, a native Scot, grew up in a hiking family and later enjoyed a hippie lifestyle before leaving his drug-addicted wife with their preschool-age son. He moved to Canada, where he was “on the run” long before his first race, which took place after he was 30. His stamina, flowing hair, and penchant for hydrating with beer defined him. In 1989, he became first to finish the 1,300-mile “Impossibility Race”—in 17 days, nine hours. In 1991, he ran 7,295 kilometers across Canada in 72 days, 10 hours—still the record—and two weeks later, broke his own 1,300-mile record. The book also reveals the relationships, personal demons, and twists of fate that shaped Howie, rendering the legend fully human—fearful and driven, flawed but likable. Beasley, an actor, director, and screenwriter, writes in a cinematic fashion, interspersing flashbacks between chapters with third-person snapshots of Howie’s signature trans-Canada run. He also seamlessly shifts focus from wide-angle settings to character close-ups, packs details into scenes without slowing the pace, and uses the colorful runners’ vernacular that christens a competitor a “manimal,” “alien,” or “freak.” Some may find the style hyperbolic, but they’d likely concede that if the author described a smoke-filled bar, they’d smell it. He achieves a fluid narrative that makes the pages fly by, like the miles beneath Howie’s feet.

A quirky, captivating biography.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77160-338-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Rocky Mountain Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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