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Despite impressionistic chronology, which occasionally causes confusion and repetition, this is an engaging memoir by a...

The prolific physician’s adventure-filled life.

Sacks (Neurology/NYU School of Medicine; Hallucinations, 2012, etc.) continues where he left off in Uncle Tungsten (2001), the story of his youthful fascination with chemistry. Describing himself as quiet, shy, and solitary, he nevertheless has become a man of many passions: science, medicine, motorbikes, and, for years, assorted drugs, including cannabis, LSD, amphetamines, and chloral hydrate. Sacks writes candidly of his mother’s rage when she learned he was homosexual, and he ruefully recalls several brief love affairs. Sent away from his family during World War II, he believes, caused him to feel inhibited in intimate relationships. But he celebrates many close friendships, notably with fellow physician (and entertainer) Jonathan Miller and poet Thom Gunn, and he offers a touching portrait of his brother Michael, who was schizophrenic. Sacks went to Oxford aiming to become a research scientist, but after one project failed dismally, he followed family tradition and studied medicine (both parents and two brothers were physicians). After working at Middlesex Hospital in England, he took an internship at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, where he fell in love with the lifestyle and landscape, buying a motorcycle and taking to the road every chance he had. “By day I would be the genial, white-coated Dr. Oliver Sacks,” he recalls, “but at nightfall I would exchange my white coat for my motorbike leathers, and, anonymous, wolf-like…rove the streets or mount the sinuous curves of Mount Tamalpais.” By the time he left California in 1965, he had covered 100,000 miles. Sacks loved clinical medicine, vividly evoking his observations and investigations in Awakenings (1973), Seeing Voices (1989), and An Anthropologist on Mars (1995). The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985) made the New York Times bestseller list and, to his surprise, catapulted him to fame.

Despite impressionistic chronology, which occasionally causes confusion and repetition, this is an engaging memoir by a consummate storyteller.

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-35254-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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

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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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