An endearing but anguished account of grief, faith, and remembrance.

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A SILENT CRY

An elegiac remembrance of loved ones lost.

Debut author Adams experienced two of the worst horrors that a person can face: the losses of a spouse and a child. In 1994, his wife, Teresa, was pregnant with their first child, a daughter they’d named Emily, but experienced complications that led to considerable internal bleeding. As a result, she lost the baby. Despite that harrowing trauma, Teresa went on to have three more children over the next six years—two girls and a boy. A little more than a decade after the birth of the last child, Teresa became seriously ill and was diagnosed with a bacterial infection that had aggressively spread throughout her entire body. She died in 2014, and much of Adams’ memoir touchingly recalls the wife he adored and the precious time they had together. The remainder of the book is a tale of grief and adjustment, which wasn’t an easy task for a man who was suddenly charged with raising three kids as a single parent. The author’s pain is palpable, particularly when he describes the solitude that resulted from it—the reflexive hermitage induced by mourning. He discusses the sorrow that accompanied days that were previously celebratory: birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. Overcoming his instinct toward privacy, he also relates what he considers “minor miracles”—ways in which his Christian faith was reaffirmed in small, quotidian, but marvelous ways. Some readers won’t be persuaded by his accounts of divine intervention, which he candidly recognizes: “Believers will see this series of events as miracles. Nonbelievers will chalk them up to a series of unrelated and random events that are explainable by other means.” For example, in one anecdote, the author tells of finding an unfamiliar silver cross dangling from a box of medical supplies, which he believes miraculously appeared there. From an evidentiary perspective, such conclusions fall short of persuasive. However, the story’s power doesn’t hinge at all on such persuasiveness, but rather on the author’s graceful grappling with heartache. Readers who’ve suffered similar tragedies will find particular beauty in this love letter to relatives gone too soon.

An endearing but anguished account of grief, faith, and remembrance.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-5872-6

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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