A fiercely honest and melancholy portrait of a “protean figure who cast a large shifting shadow.”

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THE LOST PRINCE

A SEARCH FOR PAT CONROY

A very personal memoir about the acclaimed Southern writer.

Novelist and journalist Mewshaw’s (Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal, 2015, etc.) portrait of his close friend Pat Conroy (1945-2016) is breezy, sympathetic, and affectionate. Conroy, he writes, was a “manic talker and tireless narrator of stories, some much too tall to be true, some so searingly true they left scars on his listeners,” and he calls Conroy’s works “the prose equivalent of lacerating confessional poetry.” Their friendship extended through the 1980s and ’90s when Conroy was working on Prince of Tides and Beach Music. It was Conroy who later suggested Mewshaw write about him. When Conroy first met Mewshaw in Rome in 1981, he told him he was “desperate for a friend.” Mewshaw was an amiable writer who was also a good listener, which Conroy needed. Mewshaw then “devoured” The Water Is Wide and The Great Santini. The latter comes up quite a bit here, not just because it was so well-done and became a popular movie, but because Mewshaw, as he got closer to Conroy, became increasingly suspicious about the veracity of Conroy’s descriptions of his relationships with his “ruthless” Marine father and submissive mother. As Conroy once told Mewshaw, “I’m the most falsely open person you’ll ever meet.” Their families also became close, and Mewshaw writes extensively about these relationships—sometimes too much. Conroy “wore me out,” Mewshaw writes, “and he worried me.” Their friendship fell apart over family issues. The book is full of wonderful anecdotes and vignettes about fellow writers William Styron, Mark Helprin, Nora Ephron, and Gore Vidal, who told Mewshaw that Conroy’s “novels about dysfunctional families indicate just how fucked-up our nuclear units have become.” Mewshaw also chronicles Conroy’s alcoholism and the devastating effect it had on his writing and health.

A fiercely honest and melancholy portrait of a “protean figure who cast a large shifting shadow.”

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64009-149-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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