It is difficult to discern the audience for this self-absorbed, often inartful memoir of an artist whose renown has not...

A memoir from publishing tycoon Nelson Doubleday’s daughter, an abstract expressionist painter.

Shuttled between a Long Island mansion and a South Carolina plantation, Neltje (she prefers to be recognized by her first name only) could seemingly never satisfy her father, and her biological mother comes across as a phantom of sorts, incapable of loving her daughter. Neltje's older brother, Nelson Jr., felt like a link to sanity for a while, but he eventually distanced himself from his sister. Daily life worsened considerably when Neltje was 9 and suffered repeated sexual abuse at the hands of a grown man trusted by her parents. Sent to school in Switzerland, she thrived briefly but ultimately suffered disappointment. In a memoir shot through with self-pity, Neltje chronicles the deaths of her sometimes-cruel, alcoholic father in 1949 and her mother 30 years later. The author sought refuge in marriage at age 18 and bore two children while in her early 20s, but none of that seemed to lift the despondency for long. Later in life, Neltje lost much of her inherited wealth to a dishonest second husband. Due to her elevated status, famous people flew in and out of her life; cameo appearances include W. Somerset Maugham, Theodore Roethke, and Irving Stone. The memoir takes a turn for the positive when Neltje moves west, finding geographical beauty and personal repose in Wyoming, which she has called home for nearly 50 years. Upon arriving in the West, the author decided to become a visual artist, and she also began to understand economic self-sufficiency and the theory and importance of practicing and preaching feminism.

It is difficult to discern the audience for this self-absorbed, often inartful memoir of an artist whose renown has not spread widely beyond the American West.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-08814-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016


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

Close Quickview