A moving and intense memoir from a gifted author.



A distinguished novelist and short story writer’s memoir about uncovering a painful family past he had “hidden…in fiction, story after story, book after book.”

Growing up, Slouka (Brewster, 2013, etc.) and his mother, Olinka, were “soulmates, a church of two.” She, along with the author’s father, Zdenek, had witnessed the Nazi occupation of their home country of Czechoslovakia. Despite their outward appearance as successful immigrants, however, it became clear— especially after Olinka divorced Zdenek and returned to live in Moravia—that a soul-destroying madness consumed her. Slouka examines his complicated relationship to his mother and re-creates his parents’ lives in an effort to come to terms with his own grief and guilt. In 1945, Olinka and Zdenek married. But that union, born of desperation rather than love, took place in the shadow of the abortion Olinka had of a child conceived in incest with her Nazi-sympathizer father. By 1948, Zdenek was forced to flee the country and live in exile. Just before the pair left, Olinka fell deeply in love for the first and last time in her life with F., a man to whom she continued to write even after she left Czechoslovakia for Australia with Zdenek. The correspondence ended before the Sloukas came to the United States, but a chance encounter on a trip back to Czechoslovakia nearly 30 years later brought Olinka and F. together again as lovers, until his untimely death several years later. Broken and bitter, Olinka—who could not forgive her soul-mate son for growing up and loving other women—divorced Zdenek and left the U.S. for home. Dependent on pills that accelerated the development of Alzheimer’s disease, she died “raging at the world.” Slouka’s raw candor, narrative skill, and meticulous attention to the traps of his own memory make for powerful reading. However, it is his ability to confront the darkness in his past and acknowledge it as a shaping life force that makes this book especially engrossing.

A moving and intense memoir from a gifted author.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-29230-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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 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 19, 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...


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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