Next book



Some childhoods are so pitiable you have to either laugh or cry. Karr's (The Devil's Tour, not reviewed) memoir succeeds in taking the reader to both extremes. Leechfield, Tex., circa 1962, was the kind of place where kids chased behind the DDT spray truck to see who could vomit first. So it was in this home sweet homestead that the author, when she was seven, and her older sister went about the daily task of keeping their family together despite their mother's tendency for alcohol and suicidal car outings, and their father's spendthrift obsessions. Along the way there were moments of genuine fear, adolescent gross-outs, and secrets about what love can drive one to do. Karr understands the inherent power in the fine line between comedy and tragedy, and she handles such juxtapositions like a knife thrower with something to prove. A wickedly funny account of smart-alecky goofing off can suddenly bolt into a horrific remembrance of sexual abuse. She is equally skilled at recounting the tall tales that her father cooked up to amuse his friends, the group of drinking buddies from which the book takes its title. In Daddy's voice, several classically Texan yarns are spun. Karr borrows his technique, his deadpan delivery, to give her book its edge, with punchy transitions like: ``Maybe if Mother hadn't taken it in her head to shoot Hector, we'd never have got back to Texas.'' The author hints early on at a desire to underpin her story with the unfolding atrocity of Vietnam, but the tactic is ultimately dropped. This family's battle creates all the destruction one can handle, and the fact that mustard gas finds its way into the body of a relative is truly creepy enough. With a sure hand, and the stamina that comes from growing up unlucky, Karr digs deep into her youth and hits black gold. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-85053-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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


A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Close Quickview