Intermittent rays of hope and ultimate freedom cast some light on an otherwise dark narrative of decades-long despair.

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CHASING JUSTICE

MY STORY OF FREEING MYSELF AFTER TWO DECADES ON DEATH ROW FOR A CRIME I DIDN'T COMMIT

An inmate’s harrowing first-person account of a travesty of Texas jurisprudence.

On Aug. 5, 1977, 21-year-old bartender Kerry Cook was arrested in Tyler, Tex., charged with the brutal rape and murder of 21-year-old Linda Jo Edwards. The case against him was circumstantial at best; police had a single fingerprint on the sliding-glass door of Edwards’s apartment, but nothing else to place him at the crime scene and no obvious motive. Everything depended on a jury buying the idea, based on a professional profiler’s testimony, that it was a stranger-on-stranger crime committed by a deranged drifter with a criminal record. Evidence that Cook had actually known the victim was suppressed, and a number of defense witnesses were disallowed over the course of several trials. First convicted in 1978, Cook was raped and sexually abused in prison. He twice attempted suicide; prosecutors in later trials cited this as evidence of his “violent” tendencies. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his initial conviction on technical grounds in 1991. His second trial in 1992 ended in a hung jury. Tried a third time in 1994, he was again convicted and sentenced to death. With the crucial aid of lawyer Paul Nugent, he obtained another reversal in 1996. “Prosecutorial and police misconduct has tainted this entire matter from the outset,” stated the TCCA decision, which nonetheless left the door open for Tyler authorities to retry Cook so long as they made no use of the discredited evidence. Facing an unprecedented fourth capital-murder trial in 1999, Cook refused to plead guilty to obtain a release but took the state’s bizarre deal for a no-contest plea that released him on time served. He was not exonerated, even though DNA evidence eventually pointed to another logical suspect.

Intermittent rays of hope and ultimate freedom cast some light on an otherwise dark narrative of decades-long despair.

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-057464-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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