A somewhat intriguing but mostly uneasy faith journey.



Oakes (Writing/Univ. of California; Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, 2009) chronicles her uneasy entry back into the Catholic Church, with plenty of F-bombs thrown in for good effect.

Proud of her bad-girl persona (perhaps more past than present) and of her liberal political activism, the author tries to convince both her readers and herself why she wanted to be a Catholic again. The result is readable and engaging but not necessarily convincing. Oakes grew up in a moderately Catholic family before rebelling. However, she could not rid herself of a belief in God, and eventually she was moved to try out church again. Unfulfilled with Protestant options, she went back to what she knew. At the beginning of her spiritual journey, she was uncomfortable with her choice: “I don’t want people to know I’m Catholic again because it still seems so oppositional to the rest of my life.” Indeed, Oakes’ main draw to Catholicism seems to be the challenge and the opportunity to be an agitator from within. She expresses feeling a lack of community until her searching led her to sympathetic priests, feminist nuns and activist laywomen. She found her place in Catholicism in such backdrops as a “pray-and-bitch” circle of women and a predominantly gay congregation. The author concludes with the story of her visit to Italy, where she found some moments of genuine religious feeling at places such as the tomb of St. Francis. Oakes’ writing flows well, but it sometimes feels almost lazy (e.g., describing Juan Diego, who encountered the Virgin of Guadalupe, as “the indigenous guy”) or overly caustic for the sake of her own self-image as a rebel. The author’s low self-esteem and the weight of her past drag her down throughout the book and are not alleviated by her spiritual quest, which seems, in the end, more a quest for community.

A somewhat intriguing but mostly uneasy faith journey.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59376-431-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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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 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...


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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