Worth a peek for armchair voyagers.

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OUT OF THE BOX

THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF A MYSTERIOUS MAN

“Uncle” Bob Harris is a world traveler, adventurer and, quite possibly, a spy for the U.S. government.

Julianna revisits her relationship with her late father’s best friend, “Uncle” Bob Harris. Julianna suffered from a rare form of arthritis that sometimes left her bedridden. Her vibrant uncle visited the family between mysterious trips to foreign locations; the rumor was that he spied for the CIA. Yet he surprised Julianna one day with an offer to travel with him, insisting that the experiences would benefit her body and mind. While in the Sahara, Julianna asked Bob to tell her his life story. He began doling out details with every trip they took together. She learned he worked in box production—editing an industry publication, selling products and acting as a liaison between American and overseas companies. His connections led to a covert gig with the U.S. State Department, for which he acquired information about a region’s need for box production facilities. Did this mean he was really a spy? More creative nonfiction than memoir, the book captures a charming, exciting personality in Bob. Julianna articulates his tales, true or not, in an engaging way. And while some moments in the book drag, specifically regarding the box industry, readers will be relieved to know the next adventure is only a few pages away. Forays to the Middle East, across Russia on the Trans Siberian Express railroads, and up Mt. Everest read like the greatest of adventures. Though these depictions are fascinating, Julianna has neglected to relate her health problems to these experiences; clearly, Bob is an interesting guy whose story is worth telling, but readers may wonder why the author felt the need to mention Julianna’s arthritis at all if she failed to follow up on the topic. The message to live life to the fullest is still clear, regardless of physical limitations.

Worth a peek for armchair voyagers.

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4697-5983-8

Page Count: 148

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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