A luminous story of love, heartbreak and hard-won wisdom.

LETTERS FROM A DISTANT SHORE

In this harrowing memoir, a mother endures the unendurable when her son is stricken with a devastating illness.

When her 13-year-old son Jeremy nonchalantly collapses with a ruptured vein in his brain, the author’s safe, carefully tended life with her husband and three children comes crashing down. Jeremy lies in a coma in the hospital, fighting for his life against a barrage of dire complications, his right side paralyzed while his left side unconsciously flails about, trying to pull the painful drainage tubes from his head. Fiala cares for him around the clock, soothing his convulsions, willing him to breathe, but beneath her exterior of calm efficiency she is “a small, frightened animal in a dark cage, keening with grief.” After the immediate crisis wanes, the family faces a lengthy, gray struggle to adapt to Jeremy’s handicaps—to teach him to sit up, to dress, even to chew and swallow—while facing an agonizing choice between the probability of a subsequent rupture and a dangerous, experimental procedure that might resolve the threat for good. Fiala’s limpid, sharp-eyed prose is unflinching in its depiction of the ordeal. She shows us the ravages inflicted on Jeremy by his illness and by grueling medical procedures, the callousness and occasional negligence of an overstretched health-care system and her own exhausted coldness toward the other suffering children in Jeremy’s ward. But she also discovers inspiration, hope and renewal in the experience—in Jeremy’s dogged courage and good cheer in confronting his disabilities, in acts of compassion by friends and strangers, in the testing and reaffirmation of her faith. (A spontaneous Internet support group called the Jeremy Network sprang up and held several prayer vigils that preceded near-miraculous improvements in Jeremy’s condition.) Fiala’s unsparing yet lyrical account of lives shattered and rebuilt despite daunting constraints teaches us how much we can lose without losing what matters.

A luminous story of love, heartbreak and hard-won wisdom.

Pub Date: April 30, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-933880-19-8

Page Count: 318

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2010

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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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