NO BIKING IN THE HOUSE WITHOUT A HELMET

The prodigiously cheering reflections of a mother gathering a large brood of children, both biological and adopted.

Greene (There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Africa’s Children, 2006, etc.) is the kind of person most engaged when there is a thick scrum of children underfoot. So when her eldest of four prepared for college, the author began to feel empty-nest syndrome, and she and her husband considered adoption. This was in the 1990s, a faraway time Greene recalls when her computer has to do “squat thrusts” to warm up before connecting to international-adoption sites on the Internet. After finding a boy in Bulgaria, she traveled there to investigate. Upon meeting him, she began to realize the heavy significance of the adoption process: “If I had thought this was a free look, a check-this-one-out, a no risk trial with the possibility of a full refund, I was wrong. It is not permissible to dabble in that way in someone’s life—especially a child’s.” Fortunately, the author and the boy formed a bond, and he became a member of the family, as did girl and three boys from Ethiopia in subsequent years. Greene is a writer of emotional impact. Whether she is describing the lands she visited to gather her children or the days that followed back home in Georgia, her words are flush with humanity and all the messiness and comedy that humanity trails in its wake. She goes the distance, which is a beautiful thing to behold, even as she plots her escape from all that she has called down on her head, for these are orphanage kids with plenty of baggage in tow. “I don’t think our plan is working. We’re getting all the pain of empty nest anyway,” she complained to her husband at one point. Eventually, an enveloping sweetness and involvement swept away all but what is elementally grand about being a parent and nursing a child. An upbeat chronicle of a life that has been lived on the bright side of the road, its ruts beveled by naked love.

 

Pub Date: May 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-22306-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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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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