An enthralling meditation on place.

A longing for home sends the author around the world.

In a memoir remarkable for its intimacy, wisdom, and radiant prose, Scottish singer/songwriter Tallack (Fair Isle: Through the Seasons, 2010), who was born in Shetland and lives in Glasgow, follows the 60th parallel, the border marking the harsh, remote northern regions from the more populous south. His purpose, though, is not to produce a travelogue about ruggedly exotic landscapes but to ask a philosophical question: “where am I?” From the age of 10, living in the Shetlands with his mother and brother after his parents divorced, he felt alienated and uprooted, which later intensified into “an unshakable feeling of exile and of homesickness” and an urge to find a place where he belonged. His father’s sudden death, when the author was 16, further fueled his restlessness and inspired his journey. Leaving Scotland, he headed west to Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Siberia, St. Petersburg, Finland, Sweden, and Norway before returning home. At each stop, his observations include not only a close examination of geology, geography, flora and fauna, but also history, myth, art, and literature. Tallack discovers a palimpsest of lives: he traces the arrival of Norsemen in Greenland at the end of the first millennium C.E., for example, where they encountered peoples “whom they called skraelings: wretches,” with whom they co-existed in “an uneasy balance.” The author offers a capsule history of opulent, besieged St. Petersburg, whose architecture, an amalgam of European styles, reflects the grand designs of various czars and czarinas. He also fell in love, unexpectedly, with Kamchatka, in desolate Siberia: “there was a stillness at its heart that seemed to calm, temporarily, the restlessness in my own.” He felt the same “deep centredness and settledness” in Fair Isle, an island off Scotland, and stayed for three years before loneliness impelled him back to Shetland. Throughout, Tallack renders descriptions of his emotional landscape as delicately as his painterly descriptions of the physical world.

An enthralling meditation on place.

Pub Date: July 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-146-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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