There’s a morbid fascination in following Longo’s descent, and Finkel (Alpine Circus, 1999) tells the tawdry tale in crisp...

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TRUE STORY

MURDER, MEMOIR, MEA CULPA

A disgraced New York Times reporter seeks out an accused murderer who’d been using the reporter’s identity while evading U.S. authorities in Mexico. A marriage of convenience perhaps, but not one made in heaven.

Indeed, by the time we've consumed this eminently readable if sour-tasting story, we have little sympathy for either the narcissistic Christian Longo, accused of murdering his wife and three children in December of 2001, or for Finkel, the journalist who sought out Longo with an eye toward writing the book at hand. Finkel learned of Longo within hours of being fired from the Times Magazine for fabricating parts of a story about workers in the Ivory Coast. Anyone can make a mistake, of course. But it doesn’t raise our level of empathy when Finkel confides that he’s been an inveterate liar most of his life (“The West Africa article wasn’t my first blatant deception. I’d lied many times: to bolster my credentials, to elicit sympathy, to make myself appear less ordinary”). During long correspondence and weekly phone calls before Longo’s trial, the pair forge a relationship based largely on mutual need. Longo needs someone to talk to; Finkel needs someone to write about. So we follow glumly along as Longo describes his descent from husband to thief to check forger to fugitive, portraying himself as a poor father struggling against one economic setback after the next. Longo insists he’s innocent of murder, even as his self-serving story becomes more transparent and nauseating. Finkel, meanwhile, already less skeptical than he should be, weaves in an account of his own firing, highlighting the pressures that led to his fabrications. Ultimately, both Longo’s and Finkel’s stories seem to share a common thread: rationalization of their misdeeds.

There’s a morbid fascination in following Longo’s descent, and Finkel (Alpine Circus, 1999) tells the tawdry tale in crisp journalist’s prose. But the result leaves us feeling used, and certainly no better for having met either figure.

Pub Date: May 24, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-058047-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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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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