Ryan tells this touching story of survival, love and absolution as only a mother could, while sparing none of the...

Journalist Ryan (Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters, 1995, etc.) recounts the unexpected positive consequences of her son’s traumatic brain injury.

Until her adopted son was 16, parenthood had never flowed naturally for the author, and she viewed herself as an incompetent mother to a child with significant developmental challenges. First diagnosed as a toddler, her son had an underdeveloped central nervous system that caused him to meet the demands of daily life with irrationality and inflexibility. A kindhearted and complex child, he couldn’t tell time or recount a story in chronological order by middle school, but he had insights into God by the age of four. Ever the journalist, Ryan approached him as she would an assignment, with notes and research instead of acceptance and understanding. But when a skateboard accident caused a near-fatal skull fracture with bleeding and swelling in his brain, Ryan was forced to meet acceptance head-on. When her son awoke from his coma, Ryan experienced the emotions of a mother at the birth of her child as she couldn’t before, giving herself over for the first time, wholly and completely, to her son. During the nearly 100 days of his hospitalized recovery process, Ryan chronicles the literal rebirth of her son, as he relearned to speak (his first word was “Mom”), to stand and to walk. Reborn herself, Ryan became a new mother, watching her child reveal himself to her, consumed by the palpable love of a parent and becoming the nurturing mother her son had always needed. While exposing the exhaustive and unpredictable nature of brain injuries, Ryan illustrates the ways in which catastrophic events produce acceptance, revealing gifts amid destruction and the healing energy of thought and prayer.

Ryan tells this touching story of survival, love and absolution as only a mother could, while sparing none of the journalistic details of a child in trauma and a family in grief.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7652-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009


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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