A profound slice of “uncut opium, pure memory.”

Poet/novelist/essayist Rapoport (A Woman’s Book of Grieving, 1994, etc.) takes a boat journey into the benediction of the past.

There’s no time to lose as the author rounds up a company of relatives, some working on their 60s and 70s, to make a pilgrimage by houseboat up the Trent-Severn Waterway back to their summer place in Bobcaygeon, Canada. The house no longer belongs to the family, so this will be a drive-by, and Rapoport will fill it with as many digressions as there are waterpaths in the Thousand Islands. She keeps the story in the moment, marveling at a double rainbow and the stars above a place called Burleigh Falls: “happy, trying to memorize the texture of each minute, convinced I shall not know such a time again, an oasis of untainted plenty,” while knowing that, “for me, memory is tangible, always present. My recollections are objects, available to scrutinize, to savor, even to alter.” She wants to taste a measure of what she once felt there at her grandmother’s place, and so the story is drawn ineluctably back to the dreaminess of those perfumed summer days. While the town has its psycho-geographical intensity, the memoir pivots around the family. Rapoport elegantly delineates the Judaic terrain, a temperate ground that scorned the ideologues and felt sorrow for the lapsed and that took delight in devotion and ritual, in knowledge and wisdom. She gives herself over to the dominion of emotion in the undertaking of this return, “like a wonder of nature to which people flock, their faces rapt, the water endlessly falling, stronger than death.” Stirringly, this involves saying good-bye: “Only if you acknowledge parting, embrace it without flinching, can you leave well. If you deny its imminence, the agony of farewell is never subdued.” There are some flinches, though, and they are powerful, compressed to the point at which gemstones are made.

A profound slice of “uncut opium, pure memory.”

Pub Date: July 13, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4887-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004


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

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