A diary-style retelling of one year in a unique family’s life that provides insightful, entertaining anecdotes.

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Mister B

LIVING WITH A 98-YEAR-OLD ROCKET SCIENTIST

A debut author documents a year spent in her eccentric, brainiac father-in-law’s house.

After a messy legal battle involving zoning laws, a rental house, and potential bankruptcy got in the way of their ideal living situation, Byk and her husband, Paul, decided to move in with his elderly father, the beloved and strange Mr. B. Writing in the style of a journal over the first year living in his home, Byk jotted down notes from almost each day detailing her father-in-law’s “scientific calculations, wry humor and colloquialisms from the Greatest Generation.” At 98, Mr. B had grown up on the East Coast and eventually worked in aerospace engineering. At first, Byk and her husband wondered “how to respond to a rocket scientist,” but Mr. B soon taught the author about zeppelins, pickles, and his tough Polish mother. As she began to drive Mr. B around, opening up his horizons to new foods and experiences, she learned even more about the incredible science he was involved in that changed the entire world. She also found out about the terrible wartime repercussions caused by his work that in some ways still haunt him, like the parts of planes he designed that ended up killing gunners in World War II. Throughout every small story describing a dinner or politically incorrect joke, Byk fully constructs Mr. B, from the Rhode Island coastal awe in his voice to his penchant for mustard on peeled egg—which forces her to “close [her] eyes against a rising shudder.” In these small, perfectly executed moments, Byk brings her fascinating family to life for readers with warm and genuinely funny wit. But no matter how well told these sketches and idiosyncrasies are, they never quite come together to make a larger, more substantial narrative. Although Byk becomes more patient, learns a lot about engineering, and finds newfound respect for the Greatest Generation’s frugalness, these episodes never offer the same emotionally powerful transformation that classics like Tuesdays With Morrie deliver to show the impact one generation can have on another.

A diary-style retelling of one year in a unique family’s life that provides insightful, entertaining anecdotes.

Pub Date: March 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9971625-6-1

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Capture Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2016

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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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