An honest and moving account of love, loss, and the discovery of faith.

THE WAGAMAMA BRIDE

A JEWISH FAMILY SAGA MADE IN JAPAN

A memoir about navigating one’s faith and cultural identity within the parameters of a marriage.

Grunberg Wakabayashi’s book recounts her experiences in an interfaith and interracial relationship. She characterizes herself as the product of “five generations of…Jewish women who took off their corsets to do their bit in shaping the European Enlightenment”; however, one consequence of her family’s legacy of independently minded women, she says, was that many of them ended up trading “religion for education and careers.” The author herself became a successful journalist for various news outlets who led a life of adventure and exploration. In 1987,she left New York City to pursue a journalism career in Tokyo, where she navigated a foreign culture as a “micro-minority.” At the White Crane Eastern medicine clinic, she met Ichiro Wakabayashi, a traditional therapist and Buddhist practitioner. They developed a close rapport that allowed for frank discussions about religion and culture and eventually led to them to marry. Although both of their families accepted their union, the author’s mother urged her to “think carefully about making [a] life with someone from such a different background.” Over time, and with her husband’s encouragement, Grunberg Wakabayashi began to feel the pull of Judaism. This exploration, however, shifted the foundation of her marriage as she struggled to reconcile her current life as a wife and mother with the “Orthodox rulebook of life.” Over the course of this affecting and earnest memoir, the author details her emotional journey to her decision that her marriage and religion couldn’t coexist; however, she also shows that she and her husband’s children could serve as a bridge between two very different faiths and cultures. Grunberg Wakabayashi effectively illustrates this in her description of her daughter’s traditional Japanese “Coming-of-Age ceremony, the Seijinshiki,” which took place in Jerusalem: “Jewish and Japanese wisdom has brought us all closer to God and the temples of our ancestors.” Overall, this is a heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting memoir about spirituality and how sometimes a family must fracture in order to truly thrive.

An honest and moving account of love, loss, and the discovery of faith.

Pub Date: April 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-84404-6

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Goshen Books

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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