This nostalgic sequel to novelist Apple’s Roommates (1994), about his extraordinary grandfather, focuses on the author’s less charismatic but equally original grandmother. Gootie was born in 1881 in a Lithuanian shtetl and grew up with all of the superstitions of that rural Old World culture (including spitting in all four directions to ward off the “evil eye”). Apple makes plain, though, that she was far more than a stock figure drawn from Fiddler on the Roof. She was the calming influence on her hotheaded husband, Rocky, and although she seemed to defer to him, she in fact quietly controlled her turbulent household—and captivated her grandson. She adapted to life in small-town Michigan with aplomb, without sacrificing her identity. As an outsider, she offered some sharp criticisms of American society, keeping her grandson from too wholehearted an embrace of pop culture. She worried about him forgetting his traditions. And she fretted about his girlfriends, comparing one (an avid horseback rider) to a marauding Cossack. She was suspicious of people too ready to embrace modernity, especially in matters of courtship and matchmaking, observing that “the cat and dog are modern too . . . they just go out into the street.” Her own attempts at matchmaking were disastrous but add much to the book’s fine humor. The last 50 pages are less engaging, as Apple finishes high school and leaves for college. As he reads to her in his final hospital visit, Gootie gets in some parting shots about college book learning and Western civilization in general. “Shakespeare is not worth five cents,” she concludes, and “most of the classics are about whores.” Gootie left her grandson a rich inheritance of Yiddish culture and folk wisdom, and a love of storytelling. Apple’s biography is thus also about the source of his unique writer’s mind; listening to Gootie, it’s easy to see the origin of his ability to spin a good story. Fresh, affectionate, and moving.

Pub Date: May 5, 1998

ISBN: 0-446-52074-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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