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

SECRETS WE KEPT

THREE WOMEN OF TRINIDAD

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. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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