A remembrance with lively individual scenes that fail to merge into a cohesive whole.

UNDER THE BIRCH TREE

A MEMOIR OF DISCOVERING CONNECTIONS AND FINDING HOME

A debut memoir about a woman’s three-decade search for connection and self-assurance.

Born in 1962, Chadwick grew up in suburban Chicago with her parents, brother, and half sister. She went to Catholic school and describes her house as “idyllic,” fondly recalling a birch tree in the yard; she often found solace in its shade. Her mother’s perfectionism made her anxious, though, as did her father's frequent absences for business. When her brother removed a family of rabbits from under her tree, Chadwick writes, she began to sense a growing instability in her world. When she was in middle school, her parents divorced, and she moved to a town house with her mother. She found the new location very disruptive, she says, because “my physical, material world defined my foundation.” She entered journalism school keen to learn advertising but socially insecure; she wanted a boyfriend but was unable to connect to the young men she met. During this time, she renewed her faith in God, the only relationship “that never caused anxiety, frustration, or loneliness.” Upon graduation, Chadwick found work in advertising with a number of firms from which she was either fired or laid off, further damaging her self-confidence. Eventually, she landed a job with a bank and moved to San Francisco, where she met her future husband. Together, they returned to Chicago and found their home. Chadwick brings numerous anecdotes to life with vivid dialogue and details of settings and characters. She recalls exactly what she wore on a date in the 1980s, for example, as well as the flow of each conversation she had over the years. In her acknowledgments, Chadwick says she revised her autobiography until she had a memoir that was “complete with experiences of reflections and takeaways.” Unfortunately, although the book touches on promising themes—including the effects of divorce and the need for home—she doesn’t explore them in great detail. Instead, readers are left with a long series of events, unsure where to invest their energy or empathy.

A remembrance with lively individual scenes that fail to merge into a cohesive whole.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-357-1

Page Count: 248

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

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

NIGHT

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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