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Stepmother

A MEMOIR

A beautiful examination of a family and the sometimes-fragile ligatures that bind its members.

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A debut memoir offers a poignant meditation on the joys and challenges of being a stepmother.

When Lile met her future husband, she was a lobbyist for a nurses’ association and he was the state representative from the 39th district of Snohomish County in Washington. Their romance started haltingly, but once Lile finally agreed to go out with Art, it quickly blossomed into something of real substance. There were hurdles, however: Art was still married to his wife, Vicki, though the two were separated, and he had two children from that relationship. Still, Lile and Art pressed on and decided to wed, though Vicki, sometimes resentfully, made the divorce proceedings arduous. Those inconveniences portended the kinds of problems Lile would recurrently encounter, the ineluctable pitfalls attached to the “blended family.” She moved into a house Art built with his ex-wife. Because Lile was unemployed, she was immediately thrust into the daily duties of stepmotherhood, shepherding Art’s kids—now hers too—about town in her car. The author experienced a short grace period characterized by polite awkwardness, but that eventually gave way to emotional conflict and an identity crisis. It was not immediately clear what role she played on Christmas or if she should be recognized on Mother’s Day. A community unfamiliar with Lile all but shunned her; Vicki could be territorial and curt. Lile and Art eventually had a child of their own, further complicating the household dynamic. And when Art’s two kids from his first marriage reached adolescence, their natural rebelliousness further challenged Lile’s goal of domestic harmony. The author sensitively and candidly discusses emotionally wrenching topics with a lighthearted touch. She quickly discovered that being a stepmother was both a dauntingly difficult and unsung role: “There is no ceremony for stepparents. No stepmom shower. No waiting for the official papers as you would for an adoption. No party balloons.” It’s impressive how generous she is recounting her struggles—she never surrenders herself to bitter recrimination or uses her remembrance to settle old scores. And Lile is refreshingly self-critical, openhandedly anatomizing her own foibles. This is a genuine love story that thoughtfully considers all the ways real-world obstacles conspire against a simple romance.

A beautiful examination of a family and the sometimes-fragile ligatures that bind its members.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63152-089-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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NIGHT

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

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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