An engaging if scattershot valedictory, full of hard-won insights.

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FAMILY FIRST

A FATHER'S LEGACY

A man reflects on a richly variegated life of child rearing, career upheavals, spiritual searching and quixotic political crusades in this colorful, rambling memoir.

The author has a lot of experience under his belt, including a hardscrabble boyhood during the Great Depression, service in the Navy in World War II, a 62-year marriage that produced seven kids and a work-history that swerved improbably from sales to Catholic adult-education to a stint as a Colorado state senator. He also has a probing intellect with an idealistic, liberal bent—he was a peace activist during the Vietnam War and a campaign worker for George McGovern—and a pronounced maverick streak. (His signature issue as a state senator was the legalization of industrial hemp, an initiative that put him in harness with movie-star/activist Woody Harrelson.) Casey wrote this autobiography over 30 years in stop-and-start installments that he gave to his children as Christmas keepsakes, and the result reads like a fragmented series of diary entries. The author meanders from chronicles of everyday doings in the present to reminiscences of the past, anecdotes about long-lost friends (including a man who went to Canada to raise marijuana and start a doomsday cult), pungent commentary on youthful sexual experiences, curmudgeonly diatribes against anti-smoking Nazis and tongue-in-cheek odes to the wonders of Grape Nuts. Fortunately, Casey is a lively writer who manages to hold the reader’s interest as he rummages through this miscellany of memories and peeves. There are darkly moving passages in which he recalls wanting to end his life because of soul-killing jobs or financial reversals, and cynically comical scenes of weathering dirty tricks and stultifying stump speeches on the campaign trail. Threaded through is Casey’s persistent questioning of his Catholic beliefs and of the meaning of his life, one leads him to a compelling affirmation of family and a disillusioned but never despairing faith that “God is no more than the reality of the dignity and value of every human being.”

An engaging if scattershot valedictory, full of hard-won insights.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1434981844

Page Count: 180

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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