Searching, humble and quietly triumphant: Hall has managed to avoid all the easy clichés.

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WITHOUT A MAP

A MEMOIR

An unusually powerful coming-of-age memoir.

Hall spent her childhood in a remote corner of New Hampshire. She got pregnant during her 16th summer, after sex with a college student she barely knew. It was 1965, and traditional values reigned in small-town New England. Busybodies at the Halls’ church somehow overlooked the fact that her parents were divorced, but they wouldn’t ignore Meredith’s indiscretion. The moment her pregnancy became public, she was kicked out of school. Her mother, deeply ashamed, sent her to live with her father in another town. Dad and stepmom grudgingly took her in, but forbade her to leave the house, or even to come downstairs when they had guests. Hall had a baby boy, gave him up for adoption and enrolled at a far-away boarding school. She slogged through senior year feeling hopelessly alienated from her mirthful classmates. Nonetheless, she dutifully went next to Bennington, only to drop out after a term. Then she began to drift. She moved to Boston, worked odd jobs, bounced from apartment to apartment. She allowed a fight with her stepmother to destroy her relationship with her father. Decades later, living in Maine, Hall began to pull her life together. She matriculated at Bowdoin College, the only “nontraditional student” the school had ever admitted; the short chapter detailing her dogged campaign to gain admission and her first day of classes is one of the most understatedly moving sections here. In 1987, her grown son tracked her down, enabling her to make peace with him and with herself. “I have caused harm, failed in the expectations and obligations of love,” she concludes in characteristically assured prose. “I have loved well. What I do each day is carried within me until I die.”

Searching, humble and quietly triumphant: Hall has managed to avoid all the easy clichés.

Pub Date: April 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-8070-7273-7

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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