An uplifting story of survival, often marred by maudlin writing.

BREAKING NIGHT

A MEMOIR

The admirable story of a teen who overcame homelessness through sheer grit and the kindness of friends.

Murray’s memoir of extreme poverty and eventual academic success begins with her unenviable childhood, during which her parents were drug addicts living in the decaying Bronx of the 1980s. While Murray’s older sister was furious and distant regarding their life circumstances—which included a ritualized dependence on “check day”—the author so desired her parents' acceptance that she rationalized their addictions and poverty, even though it resulted in her being grotesquely unkempt and ostracized at school. Much of the narrative focuses on her mother, who “became giddy setting up their ‘works’ while she waited for Daddy to get back with the drugs.” Murray’s formative years become increasingly traumatic, as her mother was diagnosed with AIDS and then left her scholarly yet seedy father, who had served time in prison in the ’70s for an elaborate prescription-forgery ring. Meanwhile, her disintegrating family’s encounters with the state, including a stint in a group home for truancy, convinced the author that she would be better off homeless. “I had been inching my way onto the streets all along,” she writes, “through my every run-in with premature independence.” Murray left her mother’s surly boyfriend's cramped apartment at age 15 and stayed in a motel with her first love, whom she eventually realized was a violent drug dealer and user. Despite her precarious circumstances, following her mother's death, the author re-engaged with the educational process at an alternative high school and received a prestigious New York Times–sponsored scholarship and acceptance to Harvard. Murray ably captures the fearful, oppressive monotony of being a homeless teen, constantly hustling for places to stay, and her tale is a disturbing reminder of lives lost to addiction and poverty. However, the narrative’s effectiveness is undermined by a plodding pace and by reconstructed dialogue that feels artificial and unconvincing.

An uplifting story of survival, often marred by maudlin writing.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7868-6891-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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