A sturdy but overgrown narrative in need of substantial pruning.

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MY FATHER’S SECRET WAR

A MEMOIR

A reporter for the New York Times, emotionally estranged from her father for most of her adult life, reconciles with him as she gradually, then obsessively, uncovers the story of his covert military activities during World War II.

Franks, author of the novel Wild Apples (1991), begins with a childhood memory—wiping out on her bicycle, then lying bloody in her father’s sheltering arms. But, as she quickly notes, there was little intimacy between them thereafter. She was angry with him for his ill treatment of her mother (who died in 1976), which included a long affair with a woman named Pat; for his slovenliness later on (she describes having to clean out his apartment); for his emotional coldness; for his refusal to talk about anything of consequence. But while cleaning up after him one day, she discovers in a box of items from the war some Nazi memorabilia. Thus begins the journey presented here, one filled with discoveries—about her father’s role as a spy (and assassin) in both theaters of the war, about her parents’ love (and its dissolution), about religion, about the author’s roles as sister, wife, mother. As she gradually begins to coax her father to talk about his past, complications arise: He exhibits signs of dementia, then is diagnosed with terminal cancer. But before he dies, she has come, through her understanding of him, to love him once again. There are tears and lumps in her throat. At the moment of his death, she sees a disturbance in the air around his bed, decides it’s God and practices thereafter a religious life that she abandoned long before. Much of her story deals with her research and with her discoveries, including a packet of love letters her father wrote to her mother during the war. She quotes long—often too-long—passages from them. She also reminds us throughout that she won a Pulitzer in 1971.

A sturdy but overgrown narrative in need of substantial pruning.

Pub Date: March 14, 2007

ISBN: 1-4013-5226-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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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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