A powerful, emotionally resonant memoir of a young boy’s bout with cancer as experienced by his devoted mother.

IF

A MOTHER'S MEMOIR

A mother’s perspective on her son’s harrowing bout with lymphoma.

As French author Marzouk relates in her English-language debut, what started out as a sore throat escalated into something far more dangerous for 10-year-old Solal. When his tonsil had black streaks on it, his parents knew they needed professional help. Of course, they were blindsided by the diagnosis of cancer. The author and her husband were suddenly thrust into a different world as Solal moved into the Curie Institute in Paris for treatments. Because they had two other children who needed them, they also had to maintain some semblance of normalcy throughout the long months ahead. Marzouk delivers this tender memoir via two points of view: first person, which gives readers her immediate, often visceral reactions to such things as the doctor’s first analysis of Solal’s prognosis and Solal’s hair beginning to fall out due to chemotherapy; and third person, which gives a wider perspective of events and includes Solal’s reactions. The author skillfully deploys telling details, and her descriptions of what Solal endured and how she felt puts readers into the same space as the family, creating a narrative that is sometimes overwhelmingly intense. The author’s determination and sheer willpower to endure this ordeal shine through on nearly every page. For those who have been touched by cancer, the book will bring back memories of treatments and sickness, of fears and sadness, and of joy and hope. “You’re here,” she writes in conclusion. “I’m not making it up. You really are here. Freed from the Institute and its machines with their gloomy notes. And so I sing in order to forget, to forget the risks you still run, forget my fear, forget uncertainty. Yes, Solal, we must sing, we must keep singing obstinately. But even so, what if? What if? In spite of everything, there’s always an if.”

A powerful, emotionally resonant memoir of a young boy’s bout with cancer as experienced by his devoted mother.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-097-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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

INTO THE WILD

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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