A poignantly intimate memoir.

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ALL HAPPY FAMILIES

A MEMOIR

A distinguished editor and writer’s tale of the people and events surrounding her first wedding.

When McCulloch, a former managing editor of the Paris Review and editorial director of Tin House Books, married for the first time, the ceremony took place at her parents’ beachfront home in the East Hamptons. The house, writes the author, “had a shabby grandeur to it that time forgot.” This run-down elegance also characterized the Hamptons, which in 1983 was “known mainly for artists and potato fields and the fishermen who made their living trawling off Montauk Point.” A few days before the wedding, McCulloch’s father suffered a massive stroke, transforming a celebration into a crisis that revealed the cracked foundations undergirding the family. Not long before the ceremony, her affected and controlling mother, Patricia, had forced her lifelong alcoholic father, John, to stop drinking. Cessation sent John's body into withdrawal shock and caused his stroke. Yet despite the many problems they had with each other, both lived their lives as though their marriage and family were as happy as they were perfect. The author's own choice of husband disappointed Patricia, who had expected McCulloch to marry a “Social Register” man rather than Dean, “the boy next door.” Shortly after the wedding and before McCulloch and her husband could even open wedding presents, John died. At first, Dean’s wholesomely all-American family seemed to offer a haven to the author. But three years after the wedding, Dean’s father told the family at a Christmastime gathering that he had fallen in love with another woman and eventually left to go live with her. Meanwhile, the author and her husband grew increasingly apart. By the fifth year of their marriage, “all we had in common was the desire not to hurt one another’s feelings.” McCulloch provides an honest and sensitive portrayal of family dysfunction as well as an evocation of a dying world of old-money wealth and privilege.

A poignantly intimate memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-223475-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper Wave/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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