A lean, engaging account of a heroic young man’s resistance and survival under communist and Nazi occupation.

The Boy From Lwów


Olbert’s debut biography chronicles her husband’s experiences as a young man in Poland during the second world war.

Staszek Olbert was born in the eastern Polish city of Lwów but spent his childhood in the small village of Pustomyty. While his rural childhood was in many ways happy and peaceful, the region’s violent history constantly loomed in the background. He grew up hearing stories about his father, who died after suffering for several years from injuries sustained in World War I. Staszek’s uncle Józef warned him not to play soldier as a child because “Someday, my boy, you may well have to fight in a real war, and that will not be a game.” As a teenager, Staszek exceled in school, but his studies were interrupted in 1939, when eastern Poland faced occupation, first by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. While laboring under the Germans, he was recruited by an operative from the underground Polish Home Army, and Józef’s prediction from long ago became a reality. Staszek contributed to the national cause in any way he could, ultimately fighting in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. When that failed, he and his surviving comrades were sent to a German prisoner-of-war camp. Although this book is a third-person biography, the fact that the author’s subject is her husband, and that her narrative draws primarily from his recollections, allows for a more intimate accounting of his experiences. For this reason, the book reads more like a personal memoir than a historical biography. Staszek’s perspective is intriguing and relatable throughout. However, it comes with certain limitations. Although the descriptions of his internal reflections always ring true, the reconstructed dialogue often seems unrealistic, and the historical context of Poland’s relations with other nations, as well as its internal relations with ethnic minorities such as Jews, Germans, and Ukrainians, seems simplistic and underexplored. Still, despite these missed opportunities, Olbert accomplishes her primary task of depicting Staszek’s powerful personal story. His hopes for himself, his family, and his nation are moving, and his perseverance is inspiring.

A lean, engaging account of a heroic young man’s resistance and survival under communist and Nazi occupation.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500455699

Page Count: 224

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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