A memoir that captures the opportunity that lies in loss.


Between Fires


A woman’s triumphant tale of her struggle to rebuild herself after a disaster.

“They say that men fall in love through their eyes and women through their ears and there’s probably some truth in that,” reflects Zdenek (The Right Brain Experience, 1995, etc.) in this powerful memoir. The Santa Ana winds of 1961 blew fiercely and mercilessly through the author’s neighborhood in California, bringing smoky gusts of flame and winds. She managed to escape with her two small daughters, Gina and Tamara, as her home burned to the ground, destroying everything inside. Marilee couldn’t reach her husband, Leonard, and the day passed in agony until he showed up at the motel where she and the kids were staying. Her relief at having him back intermingled with her devastation at the loss of their home, despite Leonard’s gentle reminder that “It’s just things that burned.” Surrounded by her loved ones, the author hoped that the worst was behind her—but less than three weeks later, she awoke to the terrifying sound of Leonard gasping for breath. He died hours later, and at 27 years old, the author was a widow with two small children. Her love for Leonard, an older man who’d been married before, was one that she never believed she’d have again. But not long after his death, she met Al, a kind, caring man whose affection healed her wounds. They were married for 45 years before he died, once again leaving her brokenhearted, but she concluded once more that “We cry, we grieve, we move on.” Zdenek’s perspective on her life is uplifting and inspiring, despite the often tragic content of her story. Her exceptional prose will draw readers in as they wait to see how she will survive her many tribulations. The people in Zdenek’s life emerge as flawed but endearing characters, and the love she feels for them is apparent and moving; for example, regarding her grandmother, she writes, “When I’m in my eighties and nineties, I hope I can live as creative and constructive a life as those I’ve written about here.” Her memoir captures love, loss, and renewal in a way that will touch anyone who has been through those challenges.

A memoir that captures the opportunity that lies in loss.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-692-22809-8

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Curious Mind Media, a division of Right-Brain Resources

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2015

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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