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RAY & JOAN

THE MAN WHO MADE THE MCDONALD'S FORTUNE AND THE WOMAN WHO GAVE IT ALL AWAY

A book characterized by deep research and a seamless weaving together of the details of different lives.

A dual biography of the man who made McDonald's ubiquitous and his third wife, who, after his death, spent the last two decades of her life becoming one of most generous philanthropists in American history.

Journalist Napoli (Radio Shangri-la: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth, 2011) intended to write a sole biography of Joan Kroc (1928-2003), but she wisely decided to first document the life of Ray Kroc (1902-1984), who rose to become a billionaire via fast food after decades of marginal success as a traveling salesman hawking various products. Joan Beverly Mansfield Smith was playing piano and singing in a St. Paul, Minnesota, lounge when she caught the attention of her future husband, more than 25 years her senior. The romance was complicated not just by the age difference, but also due to the fact that Ray and Joan were both already married, with children in the mix. Ray would not be denied, although the road to remarriage took years to pave. Joan felt passion as well, apparently not fully comprehending Ray's alcoholism, his authoritarian personality, his unpleasant prejudices against almost everybody different from himself, and his inability to wrest attention from the business of expanding McDonald's. Publicly, Joan mostly suffered in silence until Ray's death, but behind the scenes, she often went about her life in a passive-aggressive manner. Napoli skillfully assembles the saga of their lives as a couple and just as skillfully portrays Joan's blossoming as a philanthropic force after Ray's death. She donated hundreds of millions of dollars to causes he would have vetoed, including hospice care, alcoholism treatment, AIDS research, Salvation Army recreation centers in low-income areas, National Public Radio, and much more. In the author’s telling, Ray never emerges as a sympathetic man, but Joan slowly morphs into a sympathetic heiress.

A book characterized by deep research and a seamless weaving together of the details of different lives.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-98495-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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