A powerful, disturbing narrative in which pain flows out from the page, drenching readers.

A freelance journalist (New York Times Magazine, Salon, etc.) debuts with a wrenching, deeply personal memoir about the lives of three generations of women in Trinidad and Tobago.

Any romantic, sunny notions about Caribbean island life vanish quickly in this stark account of a place where cultures clash, men dominate, and women often suffer. The author’s own story is generally in the background; instead, she focuses on the wretched early lives of her grandmother and mother, both of whom, especially the grandmother, had to deal with husbands so physically abusive that the descriptions, which seem almost surreal at times, become like blows themselves. Miscarriages ensued in some cases. In a few instances, the women lashed back—there’s a beating of a man with a board and a choking—but mostly it’s men punching and women bleeding. Sital also provides horrendously eye-opening stories about class and cultural discrimination and abuse, in daily life and especially in the schools the women attended. What they had to endure is almost beyond belief, and the author captures it all. The women eventually escaped to the United States, where they forged new, more hopeful futures and also served caretaking roles for the head abuser himself, the grandfather, whose several brain surgeries put him at the mercy of the very women he’d dominated. Tears were rare as he sank toward his death. The author moves us back and forth—one woman’s story to another, one time period to another—and she records the dialogue in dialect, so readers should slow down to take it all in. At times, it is astonishing to read the volume of specific detail from these women’s lives: it appears that punches and kicks carry with them the details of awful words and deeds, all of which are recorded in bruises visible and invisible.

A powerful, disturbing narrative in which pain flows out from the page, drenching readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-60926-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017


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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