Ureneck’s story is simple, but it rewards abundantly by affirming the unexpected possibilities for renewal that life offers.

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CABIN

TWO BROTHERS, A DREAM, AND FIVE ACRES IN MAINE

A modern-day Walden with a midlife twist.

“I had been city-bound for nearly a decade, dealing with the usual knockdowns and disappointments of middle-age,” writes Ureneck (Journalism/Boston Univ.; Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-fishing, and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska, 2007). “The notion of building a cabin—a boy’s dream really—seemed a way to get a purchase on life’s next turn.” The author was not consciously attempting a Thoreauvian experiment in self-sufficiency. Rather, he was trying to save himself from the wreckage—a painful divorce, the loss of his mother and uncles to death and disease and a major career change—of a life gone awry. Loneliness and despair threatened to engulf him; the only family members who remained were his two grown children, both of whom lived apart from him and his younger brother Paul, a man absorbed by his own trials. Heartsick and confused, he bought a piece of land in the woods of western Maine. There, Ureneck, along with his brother and his brother’s sons, spent the latter part of 2008 and all of 2009 constructing the cabin, “employing, as much as possible, old-fashioned wood joinery rather than nails.” At first, this “experiment in mental health” was the author’s way to enjoy the two things that had been constants in an otherwise fragmented life: Paul’s company and a love of the natural world. But as the project evolved, Ureneck realized that the cabin-building process—selecting the timber to use in construction; digging and laying in the foundations; assembling the wood pieces together; securing the final structure both inside and out—was allowing him to not only confront and resolve issues from his past, but also giving him the opportunity to build a mature relationship with a beloved brother he felt he had let down in youth.

Ureneck’s story is simple, but it rewards abundantly by affirming the unexpected possibilities for renewal that life offers.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02294-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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