A bleak, affecting portrait of an unhappy family.

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OF ROOTS AND WINGS

A memoir of abuse and recovery that’s not for the faint of heart.

When Swope, one of eight children born to an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother, was 23 months old, she and her siblings were removed from their parents’ care and sent to a Catholic orphanage. Because of the range in ages, the siblings were largely kept in different divisions. At the orphanage, Swope was sexually abused by the mother superior and frequently berated for her behavior. At 4, she and her younger sister, who didn’t speak, were adopted by a wealthy family. There, Swope was molested by the groundskeeper and, separately, by his wife, as well as, it’s implied, Swope’s adoptive father, a physician who brings the children to watch him perform autopsies and allows them to drink beer, which he prefers they drink instead of Coke. The abuse continues throughout her life, leading Swope to experience frequent flashbacks as an adult, although she eventually starts therapy and seems, by the end of the memoir, to have established a stable family life for herself. Lurid details abound, but the most disturbing aspects are the disaffected narrative tone and the fact that not much is made out of the frequent psychological torment that parallels the physical and sexual abuse. For example, after she’s caught masturbating and soiling herself in the orphanage, the mother superior forces Swope to wear red socks to differentiate her from the other children, since Swope is “a creature from the devil.” The other children were told to ignore her; a girl was beaten after she helped Swope when she tripped and fell. “Thus I learned that Mother superior [sic] proved to be inferior,” Swope writes in a neat summation that doesn’t seem to be nearly a strong enough indictment against a woman who also sexually abused the young girl. There’s little explanation of Swope’s methodology. Based on the somewhat unrealistic dialogue (“Someone’s been messing with her” doesn’t sound like a medical professional’s assessment of a child who’s been molested) and the fact that the memoir begins when Swope was not quite 2 years old, readers might wonder what, beyond memories, Swope used as source material. Did she keep a journal growing up? Did she gain access to her own records and medical files? Greater insight would help illuminate the frustratingly opaque sections.

A bleak, affecting portrait of an unhappy family.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475154658

Page Count: 434

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2012

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Gucci demonstrates all the bravado and ferocious self-confidence that he counsels—and the photos are a nice bonus.

THE GUCCI MANE GUIDE TO GREATNESS

A hip-hop star who went on his first international tour wearing an ankle monitor explains how to succeed.

“The words you are about to read can help you,” writes Gucci. “That’s because there is truth in them. These are words of wisdom, like the Bible and its proverbs.” Unquestionably, Gucci likes to aim high, as many of his proverbs attest: “Stop Underestimating Yourself”; “Whatever You’re Thinking, Think Bigger”; “Nobody Cares. Work Harder”; “When They Sleep, I’m Grinding”; “Do More, Get More.” And never forget, “Women Are Brilliant.” Gucci not only shares his recipes for success. As in a cookbook that shows pictures of the end result, the author includes dozens of dazzling photos of himself and his beautiful wife, among them a series on his surprise wedding proposal at an Atlanta Hawks game. After the success of his bestselling debut, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, Gucci has realized there is money to be made in the book business. In addition to the Bible, he has his eye on Malcolm Gladwell and his reported $5 million advances. While he is “cool with Malcolm Gladwell being more celebrated than me as an author…the difference between Malcolm Gladwell and me is that I’m going to make more money because I’m going to make so many books for my following….You can enjoy this book or not, but I’m going to make my fifty-second book, my hundred and eighth book.” Many readers will hope that one of them will be a diet book, as the 100-plus pounds Gucci has lost and kept off are a frequent topic—alas, he doesn’t reveal his weight loss secrets here. Until the next book, try to live the Gucci Mane way. “Avoid lazy and miserable people,” and “Find something to be excited about every day.”

Gucci demonstrates all the bravado and ferocious self-confidence that he counsels—and the photos are a nice bonus.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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