Don’t let Amundsen’s self-deprecating humor fool you into taking this book lightly. In between capers, she makes a nuanced...

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LOCALLY LAID

HOW WE BUILT A PLUCKY, INDUSTRY-CHANGING EGG FARM--FROM SCRATCH

One family’s attempt to get out of the rat race and into the poultry race.

For years, former Reader’s Digest Association editor and Minneapolis Star Tribune contributor Amundsen and her husband, Jason, were just a normal, educated middle-class couple with middle-class lives in the middle of America. Despite this, readers will root for them because they dreamed of something other than being—well—in the middle. They decided to vacate a seemingly underwhelming existence and embark on a journey through “middle agriculture,” those farms situated between factory farms and boutique operations. The idealism of Amundsen’s husband became the fulcrum on which their lives began to pivot. Driven by decency and principled morals—and perhaps the likelihood of suffering a “boredom aneurysm” in their “Beige Rambler” Amundsen considered her “forever house”—Jason proposed to start a midsized, commercial, pasture-raised egg farm even though their main experience in egg farming consisted of caring for a few pet hens who lived in their garage. The book opens with a scene of their first shipment of commercially raised chickens that don’t quite know how to be chickens (“until today, they have NEVER SEEN THE SUN”). As we soon learn, the Amundsens don’t quite know how to be chicken farmers. The author’s skepticism and her husband’s optimism collide to create a laughable, empathetic tale of re-education for (wo)man and beast. Behind the humor, however, Amundsen reveals the complex and sometimes-alarming methods by which farms operate in the U.S. The author ably synthesizes a large amount of detailed information, including the important differences among pasture-raised, organic, and cage-free eggs. She also shows how her family’s struggle in the amorphous landscape between big agriculture and small-scale farming is not unlike the struggle of the American middle class in general.

Don’t let Amundsen’s self-deprecating humor fool you into taking this book lightly. In between capers, she makes a nuanced plea to respect local farms and the animals that populate them.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59463-422-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avery

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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