The memoir ends as Jackowski takes her final vows—a good setup for a sequel, as readers will be left wanting to know how the...

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FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN

BECOMING A NUN IN THE SIXTIES

The coming-of-age of one nun, and of the Catholic Church.

In 1964, Jackowski (The Silence We Keep, 2004, etc.) joined the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Indiana. Her first years in the convent coincided with the Second Vatican Council, which would transform the culture of the Catholic Church, even the culture of convents. Traditional black habits were exchanged for modest suits; male priests invited the sisters to preside with them at the altar; nuns began singing Bob Dylan songs at Mass. But this isn’t just a chronicle of turbulent change. Jackowski also writes about her appreciation of the traditional forms of Christian spirituality she learned as a young nun, especially silence and contemplative prayer. Living in close quarters with people she didn’t necessarily like taught her about community. Perhaps the most insightful—even transcendent—section is Jackowski’s discussion of the meaning of the three-fold vow of poverty, chastity and obedience: Poverty allows a sister to treat others with equality; celibacy allows her to love everyone equally; and true obedience is the commitment to listen to other people and discern the common truth. But Jackowski’s prose is uneven. She occasionally produces a lovely turn of phrase (every day was “wrapped in silence”), but too often her punishing attempts at humor fall flat (sisters practice self-denial: “nun of this and nun of that”). Jackowski is a natural, however, at character development. She has rendered more than a dozen distinctive, memorable characters, from stern Mother Octavia to hard-drinking Sister Concilio, who hid her liquor in a pink crocheted poodle.

The memoir ends as Jackowski takes her final vows—a good setup for a sequel, as readers will be left wanting to know how the changes of the late 1960s played out over the next three decades of the author’s life.

Pub Date: March 15, 2007

ISBN: 1-59448-937-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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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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