Compelling research within an overwrought presentation.

A romantic, rueful portrait of the Confederate general and the fatal decision that shut him out of history.

Former White House speechwriter Horn finds Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) a deeply sympathetic American hero whom fortune seemed to have favored as heir to George Washington, if only Lee had thrown his lot with the Union rather than the South. That is certainly a steep qualifier, yet the author tracks Lee’s rigorous antebellum loyalty to the Union, beginning with his father Harry’s intrepid Revolutionary derring-do as captain of the light dragoons, gaining the nickname “Light-Horse” Lee and the admiration of fellow Virginian Gen. Washington, whose land speculations around the Potomac River spurred Harry to buy 500 acres. Although Harry ended up in debtors prison later in life and abandoned his surviving children from his second marriage in Alexandria, Harry “remained an apostle for Washington’s glory” and coined the memorable phrase at the great man’s funeral: “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Hence, it was surely fate that brought West Point graduate Robert and his rich cousin Mary Custis together: She was the daughter of Washington’s adopted son who had built the showy Arlington mansion atop Alexandria’s hills overlooking the capital city. Subsequently, Arlington would be the only home in Virginia the peripatetic soldier Robert would know until the Civil War, and with the death of his in-laws and the growing debility of his spoiled wife, he was entrusted with its care. In somewhat melodramatic fashion, Horn builds Lee’s great tragedy around this idyllic Arlington inheritance, peopled by slaves he couldn’t quite free, according to his father-in-law’s dying wishes. Lee’s tortured decision to resign from the Union Army rather than fight against his home state resulted in the loss of his homestead; ironically, it would become a national cemetery for the young men he sent to their deaths.

Compelling research within an overwrought presentation.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1476748566

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014


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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