An engaging and often darkly funny memoir. Life begins at 40 for the author, who got a late start on adulthood and had a...

A memoir about how sobriety helped a recovering alcoholic belatedly become an adult.

Title aside, this isn’t a how-to book but more of a cautionary tale. As Tea (Valencia2008, etc.) writes, “I am someone whose path to adulthood is not a clear A to B, a straight line through life. My life is more like A, B, back to A, but it’s a different A this time, and now B looks so different from my time back at A—and whoa, here’s C, what a trip! I’m a grown-up!” It’s a life that has encompassed marriage to a woman after a life of often passionate, frequently misguided relationships with much younger men; of finding a place of her own after living in party houses; of teaching writing in college though she never graduated; of earning a living through writing and speaking that she once did almost for free. And of prostitution, phone sex, meth and heroin—though she treads lightly in this book on those areas. She writes, as she says, with “the dark domestic humor of a satanic Erma Bombeck,” and this is thematic territory that others have explored before her. As the memoir plays chronological hopscotch, some chapters might have fared better as stand-alone essays (particularly “How to Break Up,” which comes after she has settled down, married and her breakups are presumably behind her), and some of the concepts seem a little forced (“Hail the breakover, a breakup-inspired makeover”), but generally, the personality of her writing carries readers through. There’s also an inspirational quality to the way a life that once seemed so wayward (even to the author) has worked out so well.

An engaging and often darkly funny memoir. Life begins at 40 for the author, who got a late start on adulthood and had a wild time getting there.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0142181195

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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