Reading this quiet book should provide the sort of balm for those in similar circumstances that writing it must have for the...

ALL THE WILD HUNGERS

A SEASON OF COOKING AND CANCER

A Midwestern writer finds what comfort she can in food and family as her mother suffers through chemotherapy.

How do you hold it together when things are falling apart? As Babine (Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life, 2015) suggests in these short, often impressionistic chapters, through the familiar, through ritual, and through tradition. The author addresses cooking, the weather, and the state of modern medicine, among numerous other topics, but always with the thematic undercurrent of her mother’s health and mortality in general. Her mother had suffered through a cancer that typically occurs in children, and though her doctors considered her cancer-free, they strongly recommended chemotherapy to keep her that way. “We are reminded, many times,” writes the author, “that if she does not do chemo, there is a 70 percent chance of recurrence and a 40 percent chance of survival; with chemotherapy, she has a 90 percent chance of survival if it returns.” So her mother submitted to chemo, and life went on. The author also chronicles her sister’s pregnancy, the death of a friend’s spouse from cancer, and her father’s sickness. Through everything, Babine cooked, sometimes for her mother and for others in her family, always to have some sense of order and control, a recipe with ingredients and instructions, in a world gone haywire. It’s clear that for the author, food sustains like a lifeline or even a bloodline; there are traditions among the Swedish in Minnesota, wisdom passed down through generations. Babine found Le Creuset cookery in secondhand stores that she never could have afforded new, and she gave each of her new pots and pans a name. She also discovered “the kind of pastry I want to build my life with.” She continues to navigate her way through extraordinary challenges with ordinary comforts, finding poetry in the everyday.

Reading this quiet book should provide the sort of balm for those in similar circumstances that writing it must have for the author.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-57131-372-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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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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