An affecting look at childhood trauma.




A memoir recollects the pain of growing up with a mentally ill mother.

When Schoonover (Divorce Made Simple: The Ultimate Guide by a Former Family Judge, 2017) was only 4 years old, her mother picked out a dress for her daughter to wear to her funeral. Then she swallowed a bottle of pills in an attempt at suicide. Larry, the author’s 13-year-old brother, borrowed a neighbor’s car and drove their mom to the hospital, narrowly saving her life. Schoonover spent the next two years living with her grandmother while her mother was institutionalized; when she returned, her mother was as emotionally erratic as before. She vacillated wildly between seemingly sane and dangerously paranoid and often believed she was the vulnerable target of imminent murder. The author sensitively captures the chaos that haunted her home life: “Mom had good months and not so good months. Our lives were like train cars tied together on a roller coaster.” Meanwhile, Schoonover’s father remained emotionally aloof at best and at worst, could be bitterly cruel, selfish, and prone to ungovernable outbursts of anger. The author felt unloved at home and lived in constant fear of embarrassment at school and in the neighborhood, with that anxiety the source of considerable alienation and loneliness. Larry found his escape by enlisting in the Army and was sent to Vietnam; the author discovered solace in her nascent Christian faith and scholastic achievement. Despite her father’s furious protestations, she went to college, became a lawyer, and started her own practice, eventually becoming a circuit court judge. Schoonover’s harrowing remembrance is unflinching, remarkable for a level of candor that demands courage. Her spare but moving prose tenderly portrays the terror and isolation she weathered as a child. Yet this is not a scornful lament but rather an inspiriting account of personal triumph; the author writes affectingly about the love and sympathy she still has for her mother. This brief memoir is untainted by cloying self-pity and full of wise counsel for others who have suffered similarly.

An affecting look at childhood trauma.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9983269-1-7

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Rocky Road Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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