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A gripping account of life in captivity and humankind’s ongoing relationship to war.

Syria’s bloody civil war swallows up an intrepid French-American photojournalist secretly struggling with his own ambivalence about the seductive nature of conflict and violence.

In 2013, at various points in his 81 days of captivity at the hands of a ragtag force bent on toppling President Bashar al-Assad, Alpeyrie alternately found himself fantasizing about fighting his kidnappers and dashing for the hills at the earliest possible opportunity. There were also those times when he longed for the chance to sit and watch Arab variety shows with his tormenters. That the author wound up on Facebook at the conclusion of his punishing ordeal, curious about the welfare of the same gunmen who terrorized him for almost three month highlights the depths of inner turmoil roiling inside the veteran photographer. It was Stockholm syndrome coupled with a journalist’s heightened ability to recognize all angles of an evolving story. Alpeyrie’s often harrowing biographical tale is split between his time in Syrian captivity and his life immediately after a hefty ransom was paid for his release. Like many who have come before him, the author’s dance with death left him yearning for even more dangerous adventures. Readers hoping for special insight into the geopolitical issues involved in the Syrian War will come away disappointed, as Alpeyrie views the ongoing carnage in the Middle East as a sort of inscrutable mess. “From a wide-angle perspective,” he writes, “this whole Syrian War struck me as a historical clusterfuck that could even help set off some global Armageddon.” What the author does offer is a chilling tale about how he managed to win the fragile esteem of his captors while simultaneously keeping his fried nerves from completely shorting out, as well as his personal take on armed conflict and global jihad.

A gripping account of life in captivity and humankind’s ongoing relationship to war.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4650-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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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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