A painful but wonderfully written memoir that should create greater awareness of a bizarre disorder; that so many medical...

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THE MEMOIR OF A MUNCHAUSEN BY PROXY CHILDHOOD

Horrific first-person account of child abuse by a survivor with keen self-awareness, a sharp eye for detail, and an original, poetic voice.

In Munchausen by Proxy (MBP), a caretaker, usually the mother, falsifies or induces physical and/or mental illness in a dependent person, usually a child, to gain sympathy from others and control over the dependent. Gregory’s mother did this to her for many years, dragging her to doctor after doctor, coaching her to act sick, punishing her harshly if she didn’t do it convincingly enough, demanding endless treatments, tests, and invasive procedures, including surgery. At first the illnesses were relatively minor—nausea, headaches, allergies—but as her mother’s collection of home medical books provided information about more symptoms and tests, they escalated. When heart catheterization failed to reveal the abnormalities the mother insisted were there, she demanded that open-heart surgery be performed on her daughter. It was not, but nose surgery later was. At home, Gregory suffered other forms of child abuse, including beatings and semi-starvation. That she survived this miserable childhood seems remarkable, for as Marc Feldman (Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology/Univ. of Alabama) notes in his foreword, many victims of MBP do not. Amazingly, Gregory never stopped loving her manipulative mother and ineffectual but sometimes brutal father. When she learned about MBP in a college psychology course and grasped what had happened to her, she began gathering her childhood medical records, some of which she has inserted into relevant passages here. Her attempts as an adult to reconnect with her parents were at best bitterly disappointing and deeply disturbing in the case of her mother, who had begun MBP behaviors with an 11-year-old girl in her care.

A painful but wonderfully written memoir that should create greater awareness of a bizarre disorder; that so many medical professionals and social workers were oblivious to what was really going on in the Gregory household attests to the need. (8 pp. b&w photos)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2003

ISBN: 0-553-80307-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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