An uneven document, at times rich in the details of one man’s psyche and life in Middle America, at other times a raging...

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MY RIVER HOME

A JOURNEY FROM THE GULF WAR TO THE GULF OF MEXICO

The journal of a grueling, risk-filled rafting trip down the Mississippi River, interspersed with the author’s still-vivid memories of his experience as a young marine in the Gulf War.

Eriksen, now an antiwar activist, had promised himself while in Kuwait in 1991 that he would make this river trip through the heart of America, and more than a decade later he makes good on that promise, partly to reconnect with his country and partly, in his words, to find himself. The Bottle Rocket, his homemade pontoon raft supported by plastic soda bottles and equipped with a pedal-powered paddle wheel, is too ungainly for the shallow waters of the northernmost part of the river, which he traverses in a canoe in August, but it serves as his home from September 2003 to January 2004. In October, he is joined by his ex-fiancée Jenna, who shares his hardships and both annoys and assists him. Life aboard a raft, with days spent dodging barges and floating trees and other obstacles, and nights usually spent outdoors in a sleeping bag, is rough, but people they meet along the way are often remarkably helpful, providing hot meals, showers and warm, dry beds. Woven into Eriksen’s account of this journey are his recollections of his gung-ho boyhood, his training as a marine and most of all his months in Kuwait, where the erstwhile warrior becomes a disillusioned, bored looter in a filthy, stinking, death-filled desert, outraged to find the enemy equipped with American arms. During the Iraq war, Eriksen, a member of Veterans for Peace, demonstrates from coast to coast against the rising death toll. What has been a gripping journal-cum-memoir becomes a tirade against the administration, its advisors and corporations that profit from war. Patriotic young Americans today, he says, are dying “not for freedom, democracy, or protection of the homeland, but for the profit and political survival of a powerful few.”

An uneven document, at times rich in the details of one man’s psyche and life in Middle America, at other times a raging op-ed piece.

Pub Date: April 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-8070-7275-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

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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