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A useful biography that provides an honest reckoning of Washington’s life and legacy.

A scholar of American history and former presidential speechwriter delves into the last poignant years of the first president and his struggle to define his legacy.

Finally leaving the nation’s capital of Philadelphia upon his successor’s inauguration on March 4, 1797, bound for his beloved Virginia home, Mount Vernon, George Washington did not realize how arduous his retirement was going to prove after eight years as president. He was 65 and healthy, yet the pressures were enormous, as Horn (The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History, 2016) clearly delineates in this welcome new biography of “America’s first post-presidency.” Mount Vernon was bleeding money and in disarray, requiring countless repairs. Washington was in debt and could not rid himself of his numerous slaves because they belonged to the estate of his wife’s first husband. Furthermore, the construction of the new capital, Washington, was proving a headache of epic proportions—as was tension with France, prompting the new president, John Adams, to appoint Washington as commander in chief just when he was hoping to be left alone as a private citizen. In addition to entertaining numerous guests, including “a party of French princes, cousins to the guillotined king,” at Mount Vernon, Washington had to deal with his stepson “Wash,” who was turning out to be a loafer and miscreant. His dear friend the Marquis de Lafayette was imprisoned in Austria amid the French Revolution, prompting his wife to send the marquis’ teenage son to America to live with the former president as a refugee, though the president felt guilty for not being able to publicly shelter the boy sooner. In a readable style that includes an appropriate amount of quoting from primary sources, Horn ably captures the tension of Washington’s inner turmoil as he continued to deal with urgent dispatches and unwanted news from the capital.

A useful biography that provides an honest reckoning of Washington’s life and legacy.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5423-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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