There are a few intriguing tidbits about her father’s social and professional circle—which included Norman Mailer, Irwin...

The daughter of celebrated novelist James Jones weighs in with a loving portrait of her father—and a savage one of her alcoholic, caustic mother.

Jones, herself a novelist (Celeste Ascending, 2000, etc.), adopts a fairly routine chronology, beginning with her birth in 1960 and ending more or less in the present. Between chapters she places stories told by her mother—or about her—which reveal her as frank, eccentric, wacky, dyspeptic, unpredictable and cruel. As the memoir advances, so too do her mother’s failures and cruelties. She forgot to pick up her daughter after school, she said hurtful things (“You’re a whore, you know that?”), drank too much, lied, wasted money and acted outrageously toward all sorts of people, from literary celebrities to her own little granddaughter. Meanwhile, the author began to spiral downward, drinking heavily, sleeping with the wrong people, feeling insignificant and insecure and seeking psychological counsel. Perhaps in compensation, she continually quotes other people who told her that she’s beautiful, talented and intelligent. Jones eventually married good guy Kevin and had a lovely daughter, Eyrna, whose verbal ability, we learn, is “literally off the chart for her age.” In prose lathered with cliché and peppered liberally with evanescent epiphanies, the author seems to see God at one point, then takes up tae kwan do, progresses toward her black belt and becomes so proficient that even some rowdy teens on a Manhattan sidewalk step aside to let her pass. Jones denies the charge that she has enjoyed privileges because of her father, but the facts rendered here indicate that she has received substantial financial and professional advantages.

There are a few intriguing tidbits about her father’s social and professional circle—which included Norman Mailer, Irwin Shaw and Kurt Vonnegut—but most of the narrative is remarkable only for its rancor.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-177870-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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