A remarkably sensitive account: 21st-century readers could ask for no more insightful reinterpretation of America’s founding...

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MAYFLOWER

A STORY OF COURAGE, COMMUNITY, AND WAR

Known for his special talent with a sea story, National Book Award–winner Philbrick (Sea of Glory, 2003, etc.) here uses the Pilgrims’ perilous Atlantic crossing as mere prelude to an even more harrowing tale of survival in an alien land.

From the voyage of the Mayflower to the conclusion 56 years later of King Philip’s War, this is a sensitive treatment of the transplanted Europeans’ encountering of and clashes with the native tribes of the New World, all of which prefigured in many important respects the development of later American colonies. The strict discipline of the Pilgrims’ intense spiritual commitment, responsible in many ways for the colony’s initial success, inevitably gave rise to later political and religious schisms. Notwithstanding the forging of the Mayflower Compact, their political and economic lifeline stretched, vulnerably, across the ocean. More than anything, survival depended on alliances with Native Americans, and Philbrick excels at exploding commonly accepted notions about this complicated relationship. The Pilgrims were by no means the first Europeans in New England. Explorers and fishermen had already brought contagious diseases to the continent and decimated local populations. Nor had these visitors arrived at some Eden innocent of conflict. The tribes had engaged in diplomacy and warfare for centuries; they used the Pilgrims to shift balances of power among themselves. In Philbrick’s graceful retelling of a story many think they already know, the virtues and vices of each culture are given their due, and the complexities of the conflict between and among them explored. Prominent roles are assigned to such well-known names as Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit and his son Philip, who (with the help of obtuse Governor Josiah Winslow) touched off the regional war that bears his name. The Indians contended with the likes of William Bradford, Miles Standish and Benjamin Church, who appears to have lived the role of Natty Bumpo well before James Fenimore Cooper imagined such a character.

A remarkably sensitive account: 21st-century readers could ask for no more insightful reinterpretation of America’s founding myth.

Pub Date: May 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03760-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

THE WAY I HEARD IT

Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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