Despite a promising premise and a few fascinating stories, the book is ill-focused and overlong.

Psychiatrist Holland recounts nine years working the weekend shift in the emergency room of one of the nation’s iconic psychiatric hospitals.

When she started her job at the Bellevue psych ER, 30-year-old Holland (editor: Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, 2001) was single, intelligent and tough. Prisoners in chains, battered women, the homeless, desperate and delusional—all became an exercise in how quickly a patient could be treated and released. Readers meet an endless procession of these broken souls, some more sympathetic than others, and get a sense of the difficulty of the author’s job. Holland describes how the staff competed to identify which patients were feigning symptoms to score a warm bed and hot meal, until the author, shaken after a scary incident, realized that “even the lying patients are still coming to the hospital because they are in need. Don’t send them away empty-handed.” Unfortunately, few of the patients’ stories are particularly memorable, and Holland misses countless opportunities to make them so. Because she is so focused on her journey from tough girl to “working mother of two with a heart of mush,” the take-home message from each of these vignettes, when there is one, almost always relates only to the narrator—who, despite this, does not come across as a particularly self-aware storyteller. There are some moving moments of genuine insight, but they are dulled by so much extraneous detail that everything starts to feel arbitrary. A more focused narrative, with half as many patients whose stories carried twice as much weight, would have made for a much stronger book.

Despite a promising premise and a few fascinating stories, the book is ill-focused and overlong.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-553-80766-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009


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



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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