An unflinching dispatch from the intersections of motherhood, poverty, drugs, and mental illness.

THE MOTHERHOOD AFFIDAVITS

A MEMOIR

Better Call Saul meets La Leche League in this creative memoir.

In a work that veers from confessional to cautionary tale to small-town crime blotter, Baker (English/Univ. of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) offers a harrowing account of her childbearing years at the center of the Midwestern methamphetamine crisis. The author and her high school sweetheart, Ryan, returned to their Wisconsin hometown to raise a family only to find that Oshkosh had traded its overalls for opioids. Ryan scraped together an unsteady income as a public defender for the many townsfolk cursed by addiction and its attendant woes: assault, theft, murder, child endangerment, and criminal neglect. Although she portrays Ryan’s law practice as a noble ministry defending the weakest from too-severe punishments, Baker is hardly the meek pastor’s wife in this paternalistic scenario. Her only source of relief from the anguish of bipolar depression was getting high on oxytocin, the feel-good hormone released during pregnancy, breast-feeding, and near-death experiences, but she had to continue to have babies in order to keep this precious “oxy” flowing. As the children kept coming and the family’s debts piled up, they descended into the moral quagmire of the impoverished. Baker blames her failings as a mother and citizen (ignoring seat belt laws, letting her children’s front teeth rot) on her self-diagnosed addiction. Even as she compares her escapades and temporary insanity to the meth addicts all around them, she details her family’s hypocrisy in being willing to profit from, but not befriend or live among, her husband’s clientele. In order to gather the drug-addled denizens to her breast in narrative solidarity, she subsumes their tragic stories in her own and makes the disturbing anecdotes from their case histories serve as evidence for her theories about motherhood under duress. The author writes with an imaginative, studied complexity that, when joined with the disquieting subject matter, results in a memoir both evocative and irritating but which readers may find themselves unable to put down or soon forget.

An unflinching dispatch from the intersections of motherhood, poverty, drugs, and mental illness.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61519-439-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: The Experiment

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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