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...

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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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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