TWENTYONE OLIVE TREES

A MOTHER’S WALK THROUGH THE GRIEF OF SUICIDE TO HOPE AND HEALING

An offbeat and uplifting contribution to the literature of grief.

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A San Francisco–based author confronts the pain of grief and loss following her son’s suicide in this debut collection of memoiristic fables, poetry, and letters.

“My son Blaise was my soul mate and my partner in crime on many adventures,” says Formentini in her introduction. She describes the unique bond the two shared and how they enjoyed world travel together, visiting Cambodia, Lapland, and other far-off locales. She also says that Blaise’s highly sensitive nature, combined with drug addiction, led him to suicide in 2019. In this book, Formentini examines the grief she’s experienced in the hope of finding peace. The collection’s title refers to the 21 olive trees that the author intends to plant—one for each year of her son’s life. The book also includes 21 letters and poems the author wrote to Blaise in the year following his death that describe her grieving process. Each letter is accompanied by a hopeful fable that explores human connection; for instance, “Camel and Spider” tells of two friends separated by desert wind. Formentini’s debut offers insightful, finely textured reflections on the dynamics of grief. Her early poetry is understandably raw and confrontational: “One thing that makes me so pissed off, / is you leaving me like this.” However, as the book progresses, this rage transforms into a sedate spiritual understanding: “That is where I Find You, / In that Light that Shines its Love, / and which has always been at the / Very Core of My Being.” The deeply personal poetry is counterbalanced by the fictional tales, which present broader, more universal truths. The author’s power to move readers is exemplified by the closing of “Camel and Spider” when Camel says, “You’re in the moon. You’re in every grain of sand. I can’t see anything without seeing you, Spider.” Cooper’s full-color illustrations add to the book’s unusual melding of genres. The end result is a tenderly philosophical study that offers hope and solace.

An offbeat and uplifting contribution to the literature of grief.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1955119061

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Kat Biggie Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

MAGIC WORDS

WHAT TO SAY TO GET YOUR WAY

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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