An intelligent, disturbing, and profoundly honest memoir.


A prizewinning poet's account of her convict father and the impact he had on his family.

Brodak (A Little Middle of the Night, 2009) was 7 the first time she stole from a store. Six years later, her father, Joseph, who was conceived in a German concentration camp, was arrested for robbing 11 banks in Michigan. Here, the author examines the tortured relationship she and her family had with her father. A gambling addict, Joseph lived life with greedy amorality. He was already married with children when he met Brodak's mother, but that did not stop him from starting a second family with her. Their relationship was a rocky one; they married and divorced twice. The second and final time they ended their union, Joseph took Brodak’s younger sister with him. While he treated her like a princess and spoiled her with fancy clothes and a Corvette, he sometimes sent the angry and confused teen back to Brodak and her mother “as punishment, or maybe to loose himself from her care during gambling binges.” During what would be the first of her father’s two jail sentences for bank robbery, the author became an expert shoplifter not because it was “good or cool” but because it was simply a way for her to make money. Later, she realized that it was really a way for her to work through the “pattern of theft that destroyed my family.” Brodak’s story is undeniably compelling, but what makes the book even more fascinating is her in-depth reflection on the gambling habit that drove her father into a life of crime. “Maybe gambling is a kind of wound-replay wound-fascination,” she writes, “because it’s so obviously unwise that it seems like self-harm.” An individual may feel empowered because of the choice involved; but for Brodak, gambling is really a form of self-harm that distracts from the hard business of living and maintaining healthy relationships.

An intelligent, disturbing, and profoundly honest memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2563-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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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

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