A story of a man’s life told through a daughter’s eyes that masterfully balances unvarnished truths with affection.



A daughter’s exploration of her father’s life and his battles with mental health.

In this poignant memoir written decades after her father’s death by suicide, Kossoff explores his life “from the heart and soul of the girl I once was, through the lens of the woman I have become.” A cocky Jewish New Yorker and pilot during World War II, Hugh Kossoff married a fundamentalist Southern Baptist and attended dental school in Baltimore, then moved to North Carolina, where a sham test administered by the state’s Board of Dental Examiners failed him because “they didn’t want another Jew practicing in Winston-Salem.” At that point, Kossoff’s young family moved across the border to Danville, Virginia. In a city with a small Jewish population and a local country club that denied membership to Jews, Kossoff (who had converted to Christianity before marrying the author’s mother) became a deacon in a local fundamentalist Baptist church. Ever cognizant of the South’s rampant anti-Semitism, he would later have plastic surgery to reduce the size of his prominent nose. Though the author’s goal is to understand the “mystery” and “puzzle” of her often detached father, her recollections are peppered with humorous anecdotes and compelling descriptions of race, religion, and local characters in the 1950s and 1960s South. The juxtaposition of the author’s family tree often makes for a fascinating read. In a single chapter, readers are introduced to Yiddish speaking relatives in the Bronx on one branch while on the other, they meet a Southern cousin whose bedroom is adorned with a Nazi flag and Confederate paraphernalia. The last third of the book details the harrowing physical and mental decline of her father and family secrets uncovered after his death. Kossoff’s struggle to reconcile an idealized image and memory of her father with the harsh realities laid bare in his later years is both heartbreaking and cathartic. Though the particulars of this story are unique, this is a profound memoir that articulates the human struggle to balance innate love of a family member while also acknowledging their complexities and flaws.

A story of a man’s life told through a daughter’s eyes that masterfully balances unvarnished truths with affection. (afterword, acknowledgments)

Pub Date: July 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73368-167-4

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Lystra Books & Literary Services, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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 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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