A compassionate chronicle of a couple's last year.

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PASSING

A MEMOIR OF LOVE AND DEATH

A devoted husband bears witness to his wife’s final illness.

Retired Simon & Schuster editor-in-chief Korda (Alone: Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk: Defeat Into Victory, 2017, etc.) offers a sensitive and absorbing chronicle of his wife’s death from cancer a year after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Joining a growing genre about death and dying that includes Sherwin Nuland’s How We Die and Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Korda’s memoir is both a celebration of his 45-year marriage to his “lover, companion, and best friend” and a cleareyed account of the benefits and limits of medical intervention. Until she was stricken with brain cancer, Margaret Korda seemed invulnerable: a strong, athletic woman who loved the outdoors, rode horses competitively to win five national championships, and, even at the age of 79, retained the beauty and “perfect posture of the fashion model she once had been.” Yet although she was remarkably healthy, the author discloses that she took an assortment of medications to treat depression and anxiety. “She was a perfectionist,” he writes, “hard on herself, she worried about aging, losing her looks, what she would do with herself if she had to give up riding.” Her fears made her wary of doctors, which is why, when she noticed a patch on her cheek, she covered it with makeup rather than have it removed and biopsied. By the time she agreed to remove it, the cancer had begun to spread. After the diagnosis of her brain tumor, Korda took it upon himself to find out as much as he could about the illness and treatment, devouring cancer sites on the internet and parsing medical information, hoping it would help him support Margaret’s treatment. Despite finding an excellent, caring neurosurgeon, the author “struggled with alarm and despondency as I read about what lay in store for Margaret.” He chronicles in detail her yearlong experience of surgeries, therapy, decline, and decision-making as the two learned the extent of her illness and, finally, abandoned “hope, illusions, [and] faith in miracles.”

A compassionate chronicle of a couple's last year.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-464-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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