BALSAMROOT

A MEMOIR

As Blew (All But the Waltz, 1991) watches her long-idolized aunt Imogene slide into dementia, she wisely analyzes past and present to create a stronger self and a more honest future. Imogene was born of the stark and dusty Montana plains at a time when women were expected to marry and raise children. Instead, she became a schoolteacher and moved away from her family, as far west as possible, to the end of Washington's Olympic peninsula, to live an independent and solitary life. Things change when Imogene, age 79, wakes up one morning and doesn't remember how to make oatmeal; subsequently she sells her house and moves to Lewiston, Idaho, to be near her niece. At the same time, Blew's daughter from her first marriage, whom she hasn't seen in several years, comes for a visit and announces that she's divorcing her husband and moving to Lewiston to attend veterinary school. If Blew had trouble juggling her seven-year-old daughter Rachel from her second (failed) marriage and teaching grad school and writing, what a shock to find that her aunt, who's always provided a haven in times of distress, now needs care, and her older daughter, who feels so foreign to her (``Depression after my divorce erased my young womanhood...until I feel almost certain that Rachel is the only child I ever had''), might become a friend. While Blew struggles with practical choices, like residential care, she also struggles with spiritual ones, recognizing that she knows nothing of the real Imogene except what she'd needed to see and so has no idea where her aunt goes when she falls ``through the hole in her mind.'' Blew turns to Imogene's journals for clues to break down her family's unstated code—``never speak aloud of what you feel deeply''—and is surprised to find her own voice. Sagebrush and sage.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-670-84857-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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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