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Laskas is an endearing, scrambled character, her swarming thoughts torturing readers as they torture her.

A chattery yet appealing return to the turf of Fifty Acres and a Poodle (2000): the author’s life on and off Sweetwater Farm in Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania.

No longer plagued by country mouse/city mouse doubts, Laskas is taking to her rural existence. “I am really happy,” she writes, simple words so many wish they could say. “I love living here. Driving around, you feel like you've entered a very good dream.” Then, to her husband Alex, “I'm happy. I'm madly in love with you. I often feel like the luckiest person alive to have this life.” By now, readers are getting the point: (1) Laskas is happy; (2) she likes to cover the ground thoroughly, like a blue tick working a scent. Inevitably, there is a snake in her Eden: her mother’s sudden paralysis. Laskas, the youngest child in her family, is hit broadside, seeing Mom as a “helpless bird” and herself as the “Utterly Useless Sister” (though her bedside presence is anything but). As her mother recovers, Laskas notices that “the more I stand here caring for my mother, the more of her helplessness I see, the more mother I seem to become.” The 40-year-old author wants a child of her own, but her eggs aren't what they used to be, nor is her 50-something husband’s sperm. Difficult as it is, Laskas manages to find the humor in failed in-vitro fertilization: “And my story, at the moment, is a used needle in a Wal-Mart bathroom.” (It’s a long story.) The couple decides to adopt a Chinese child, and no matter how tired readers are of the author’s mutts and neighbors, they will probably fall hard for her first meeting with her daughter. “Right. I know what to do. Of course I do. Here goes. This is what a mother does. I open my arms, and she falls in.”

Laskas is an endearing, scrambled character, her swarming thoughts torturing readers as they torture her.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-553-80263-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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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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