Next book



A remarkable, empathetic, and intense exploration of the nature of grief and guilt, featuring searing personal insights as...

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A veteran clinical psychologist examines cancer and a child’s grief in this debut memoir.

When her firecracker sister Martha was diagnosed with breast cancer, Plouffe believed she had the tools to deal with whatever happened, including the interminable machinations of the insurance company, the roller coaster of recovery and relapse, and the demands of a large family scattered across three states. Martha and her doctors played the numbers game, but only one number mattered to this mother of a 3-year-old: “I need twenty years to raise Liamarie.” And when a treatment designed to extend Martha’s life inadvertently ended it, Plouffe was forced to inspect not only her own grief, but also that of the newly abandoned child. The author tells not only the story of “how we got through the horror” of Martha’s death in the years that followed, but also “how we got back,” detailing family members’ exhausting emotional journeys as they attempted to heal and move on with their lives while managing Liamarie’s mental health as she grew from toddler to teenager. As a psychologist dealing with trauma on a daily basis, Plouffe found herself reiterating the received wisdom that “grieving is a two-year process” only to discover the advice as lacking in the glut of platitudes that met her in the wake of Martha’s death. She came to realize that “grief is not a broken heart...grief is a fractured soul,” and her striking tale is one of reconciling her career experiences with the agonizing reality of personal loss, told in a manner that wisely avoids sentimentality and embraces the warts-and-all irrationality of mourning. Where a lesser writer might lean into the darling precocity of Liamarie and offer the child as a panacea to the suffering, Plouffe uses an almost clinical examination of the girl’s development as a springboard to reconsidering her own attitude toward the grieving process. What results is a bracing and accessible account of the conflict between emotion and intellect.

A remarkable, empathetic, and intense exploration of the nature of grief and guilt, featuring searing personal insights as well as cleareyed professionalism.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63152-200-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

Next book


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

Next book



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview