A stunning, deeply satisfying story about how we outlive our upbringings.



A vivid and compelling portrait of a dysfunctional family.

For the first eight years of his life, Hamill and his two brothers lived like blue bloods. Their father’s family was “pure white-Anglo-Saxon-protestant, Mayflower-descendant, white-butler rich.” The only life they knew was filled with servants, private clubs, and luxurious New York real estate. But when his family’s “dormant demons were rustled from their slumber” and his parents divorced, the three boys moved to Bermuda with their mother, where she had grown up in a working-class family. The book, Hamill’s debut, is not a typical riches-to-rags reversal, though that’s a prominent theme. Instead, the author explores in visceral detail how children of addicted caregivers struggle to construct meaning, establish their own identities, and simply survive while living in the wake of a family illness. Hamill is a gifted storyteller, crafting scenes and dialogue that read like a riveting novel. There are casualties in this tale, both real and figurative, but there are also many triumphs. In his early 30s, the author embraced his sexuality as a gay man, a reckoning that arguably took a back seat to all the chaos and collateral damage that surrounded him. Though Hamill is unflinchingly honest about the flaws of all of the characters in the story (including himself), by the end, readers will have at least some affection for each one. The author absorbingly narrates a complicated story fraught with betrayal, abandonment, and grief, and he shows us—via his own recovery—that beauty, pain, and love can all coexist in the same space. “I started to see my mother as somebody caught in darkness,” he says, “doing whatever she could to steal glimpses of light, knowing they wouldn’t last for long. I saw how brave that was, and how sad.”

A stunning, deeply satisfying story about how we outlive our upbringings.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982122-76-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.


All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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