Bittersweet and beautifully written.

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THE NOISE OF INFINITE LONGING

A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY--AND AN ISLAND

New York Times editor Torregrosa’s debut recalls with rueful affection an unsettled childhood in a tropical paradise.

In graceful prose, the author movingly relates how her love for a place, Puerto Rico, and a parent, her mother, was affected when her family fell apart and she fled the island to avoid witnessing the consequences. The prologue describes a family reunion after her mother’s sudden death in 1994; gathered for María Luisa’s funeral in Texas, where she lived for more than 30 years with her second husband, her children talk about their past, their family, and their relations with one another. María Luisa had seven children, six by her Puerto Rican first husband and a seventh with her American spouse. Torregrosa, the oldest, was closest to sister Angeles, later a high-level Sandinista, and brother Amaury. The three bore the brunt of their father’s abusive behavior before their mother finally divorced him. Torregrosa vividly evokes the pace and texture of Puerto Rican life, “furious winds and hot rains, a place of trammeled beauty.” She describes the places where the family lived, San Juan as well as small country towns, as her father developed his medical practice. Beautiful and clever María Luisa belonged to a distinguished family and had been a lawyer before she fell passionately in love and married a man with whom she had little in common. Amaury, from a lower social class, expected his wife to be a dutiful homebody while he stayed out at night drinking and womanizing. Torrregrosa watched angrily as her mother waited up for him and endured his abuse of her and the children. By the time the author was 16, she had decided she wanted to write and live in the US, where she had gone to school, to get as far away from the family as possible. Yet she encounters prejudice as a Puerto Rican and a lesbian while she struggles to make a life of her own in America.

Bittersweet and beautifully written.

Pub Date: March 5, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-053460-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Rayo/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

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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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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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