Affecting stories told effectively, with all the complications involved in searching for truth.

Stories matter, memory is tricky, the past permeates us: these and other insights appear continually in a collection of interwoven personal essays.

There is no indication that these pieces have been published elsewhere, though an internet search turns up some previous online appearances. Proctor (Creative Writing/Fairleigh Dickinson Univ.; Do You Hear What I Hear? Religious Calling, the Priesthood, and My Father, 2005, etc.), a translator, author, and editor, tells a number of stories, some of which resemble one another in certain ways, others that deal with adolescent foolishness, parents, motherhood, religion, psychotherapy, writing and translating, death and dying. Throughout, the author remains candid about herself—sometimes brutally, painfully so. She discusses her early difficulties in school; her relationships with men, including marriage(s); her times living abroad, where she learned Italian—she’s now a translator; her admiration for various writers, including Muriel Spark; her children’s sometimes-evocative conversations; and her visits with an astrologer. Proctor’s essays sometimes allude to one another in ways—sometimes subtle, sometimes patent—and she is very fond of endings and exits that evoke high emotion in a few words. Her text, as well, is full of pithy, even aphoristic phrases and sentences—e.g., “the perversions of memory”; “It is tricky to talk about shame.” In several pieces, the author employs a technique resembling a musical motif: in one essay, she revisits Waiting for Godot several times; in another, an astrologer’s observations pop up now and then. Among the most wrenching of her stories, which appears throughout the collection, is that of her mother’s losing battle with cancer. The final essay, “The Waiting Earth,” which takes readers to a cemetery, features a final sentence that will create a tear in even the driest of eyes.

Affecting stories told effectively, with all the complications involved in searching for truth.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-936787-61-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017


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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