Next book

MY RUSSIAN GRANDMOTHER AND HER AMERICAN VACUUM CLEANER

A FAMILY MEMOIR

An unconventional and quite hilarious family scrapbook.

Breezy chronicle of life with a hardworking Russian family headed by an obsessive matriarch with a “dirt phobia.”

Award-winning Israeli writer Shalev’s (Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible's Intriguing Firsts, 2010, etc.) delightful family memoir focuses on a joyful boyhood spent with his grandparents Aharon and Tonia through the decades following their migration to Palestine in the 1920s (both elders hailed from small Ukrainian villages). The author’s grandmother, Tonia, a practical, tightly-wound cleaning sensation, had always been a woman who methodically carried a dust rag on her shoulder, but the gift of a powerful General Electric vacuum sent from Shalev’s uncle was completely unexpected. The present both surprised and irritated Tonia and Aharon. Tonia was used to doing her own housekeeping unassisted by mechanical intervention, and Aharon felt it was a offering from a relative who’d swapped their adopted Zionistic beliefs for “American capitalism” by emigrating to Los Angeles, changing his name and becoming a businessman who reaped more self-satisfied rewards than the rest of the family. The author gleefully describes his hardworking grandmother’s eccentricities with affectionate amusement and without mockery. As a young boy, to help prepare for the family Seder, Shalev was allowed access to Tonia’s forbidden rooms, where he discovered abandoned furniture draped in “old-sheet shrouds,” as well as inside the typically locked, second bathroom, where the vacuum cleaner (her “svieeperrr”) sat, unused, for fear that it would become soiled if operated. The author unveils Tonia’s stringent unwillingness to allow visitors to traipse through the clean, carefully segregated house, preferring to entertain outside, and her startlingly outspoken declaration that “a young man should change girls like he does socks.” Rife with colloquialisms and native dialects, Shalev’s personal reflections of quirky uncles, family squabbles, the rich history of his Jewish heritage and the legacy of the omnipresent American vacuum touch the heart and tickle the funny bone. 

  An unconventional and quite hilarious family scrapbook.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4287-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

Next book

INTO THE WILD

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

Next book

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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