An intimate and unsparing book of self-reflection.

A therapist and writer reflects on how alcoholism unexpectedly overtook her at midlife.

Cohen (Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship with Shopping, 2014, etc.) “didn’t fall in love with alcohol early in life.” From adolescence onward, her real addiction was romance. Boys were her “salvation” from the pain of feeling unlovable. Only later was she able to admit they were what she used to stay away from relationships or when she got into them, “keep a foot out the door.” After Cohen left an unfulfilling first marriage in her late 30s, she flung herself into the dating world by sleeping with a series of men over the next year. The last man, Bob, was one to whom she felt an especially intense attraction. Wine became their aphrodisiac of choice, “lubricat[ing] our conversations and enhanc[ing] our already fiery libidos.” When they first got together, the author only drank when she was with him or with their friends. Her drinking worsened after she realized that Bob still felt a deep attachment to his first wife. Despite going to the gym, Cohen began gaining weight; she knew it was the amount of wine she had been drinking. Eventually, her relationship with Bob settled into a predictable cycle of withdrawal and reconnection. Marriage only made the situation worse between them: Eventually Bob took a lover and paraded her in front of Cohen. After the author fell deeply in love with another man who, like Bob, could not detach from a previous relationship, she finally began to work on her intimacy issues and start a moderation management program to lessen her use of alcohol. Unapologetic in that it offers no trite “darkness to light” narrative about alcoholism, Cohen’s book instead offers a sharp-eyed look at what it means to be a midlife female unable to cope with either personal demons or the heavy external social pressures placed on women.

An intimate and unsparing book of self-reflection.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5219-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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