A sharp, searing view of war from the front lines and an important contribution to understanding how a nation can...

BROTHERS OF THE GUN

A MEMOIR OF THE SYRIAN WAR

A richly detailed, sometimes horrifying account of the Syrian civil war.

Here’s one thing to note about getting tear-gassed: Writes Hisham, soda pop in the eyes is a good remedy, and “along with the tear gas, the Coca-Cola washes away any lingering traces of shame,” even if it leaves an awful mess. But this is a book of awful messes, of city blocks and families torn apart and friendships broken by events. The brothers of the title are Hisham’s friends Nael and Tareq, citizens of the ancient city of Raqqa, “a superstitious, conservative community, where many people insisted that before one undertook any important task or made a difficult choice, one needed to go to the tomb of some pious wali and ask for his blessings.” The choices each of the boys made led to government school for one, death for another, and a life on the run as an Islamist revolutionary for the third. As he recounts the events leading to the increasing repression on the part of the Assad regime and the eventual descent of Syria into civil conflict, Hisham writes with a wryly observant eye for telling remarks. If the customary cry of faithful warriors was that God is great, then the quietly subversive retort of a Raqqawi graffiti artist makes for a fine rejoinder: “Tomorrow is better.” Tomorrow is a rare commodity in Hisham’s fast-moving account, which is enhanced by Crabapple’s powerful ink drawings. Having abandoned the religiosity of his youth—what Syria needs is science, reason, and economists instead of mullahs—Hisham comes to a hard conclusion: Too many Syrians will pick up the gun in the name of Islam even though, “when you are a programmed machine with a gun, all that is left in you that is human is the feeling that you are invincible; when you are not, you know exactly how weak you are.”

A sharp, searing view of war from the front lines and an important contribution to understanding how a nation can disintegrate before one’s eyes.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-59062-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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