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

Stepmother

A MEMOIR

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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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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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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