An unsentimentally courageous memoir.



Essayist Gross (editor: About What Was Lost: 20 Writers on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope, 2006) tells the story of growing up with and then permanently leaving behind the parents who abused her.

The author’s earliest memory was of violence: “My parents believed in corporal punishment.” Discipline from her father involved brutal tongue-lashings and beatings. Both parents told her that she deserved this treatment because she was “fresh, a back-talker…too loud, too opinionated, and too smart for my own good.” Yet on the surface, the family seemed to lead a happy middle-class life in a Long Island house that looked “like something out of a storybook.” As Gross grew into adolescence, she nursed an intense hatred for her family as well as a nascent self-hatred that manifested in thoughts of suicide. Her one release was a diary where she confided “the truth of her home life” she could not reveal to anyone. By high school, Gross was a self-proclaimed “mess” who found temporary escape in alcohol and drugs and still managed to maintain good academic standing. It was only during her college years at Vassar that she began telling close friends about her history of abuse. She confronted her father about his behavior, but even her brothers could not support her, telling her instead to “forget about it.” After moving in and out of jobs and relationships and dealing with recurring episodes of depression, Gross left for graduate school. But it would not be until a job search trip home to Long Island that she would confront her mother and father together and demand that her father admit his guilt. The emotional explosion that ensued caused Gross to end the relationship she had with her parents and begin her own difficult journey to joy. The author chronicles the dark side of family life with honesty while revealing that love can still be a possibility for those willing to break self-defeating patterns of behavior.

An unsentimentally courageous memoir.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0160-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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