An unusual point/counterpoint journal by a mother and her son, chronicling the painful years the son suffered from autism and his remarkable recovery. Rob and Judy Barron's first child was born autistic. From infancy, Sean was totally unresponsive to direction and affection. He was also hyperactive, destructive, and full of rage. In her frustration and bewilderment, Judy responded by screaming, threatening, and spanking. When the Barrons finally sought help, the professionals argued what was then the party line about childhood autism: that it was caused by ``refrigerator parents,'' especially an unfeeling mother. (Current thinking is that the cause is probably biochemical.) Medication, behavior modification, and institutionalization were recommended. The Barrons eventually tried all three but preferred having Sean at home. Both parents believed that behind the bizarre behavior was a terrified but normal child. Although age and academic success—he was able to attend public school—modulated Sean's behavior, it was not until he was 17 that the real Sean emerged. He graduated from high school, went on to college, and is now living on his own, with a responsible job. Sean's story is told in stereo, through interspersed paragraphs by mother and son. Judy is heroically honest about her own lack of control. Sean, whose memories go back to toddlerhood, makes clear how pleased he was by repetition—e.g., switching lights on and off; how angry he got when his arbitrary ``rules'' were violated; and how frightened he became when a comfortable pattern—for instance, the order of school buses lined up at the end of the day- -was disturbed. What cured him? It's not clear: perhaps his mother's bulldog determination that he could be rescued, the shock of puberty, some reconnected neurons—or a combination of all three. This book offers hope but no plan for reclaiming other autistic lives. Notable for its window into the thoughts and feelings of an autistic child—and for its gratifyingly happy ending.

Pub Date: March 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-671-76111-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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