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A profound and inspiring love letter to one piece of Earth—and to the rest of it, as well.

A collection of essays about finding and maintaining one’s place on our changing planet.

In her latest, Houston (English/Univ. of California, Davis; Contents May Have Shifted, 2012, etc.) writes with the same unvarnished, truth-loaded sentences that made her short story collection Cowboys Are My Weakness (1992) a contemporary classic. Her nonfiction persona, like many of her fictional narrators, is tough and full of gumption. “Did I ask myself whether putting 5 percent down on a 120-acre ranch I had no idea how to take care of and no foreseeable way to pay for might have been taking the idea of retethering to the earth to a radical extreme? I did not,” she writes, continuing, “if buying the ranch was a gross overreaction to either my mother’s death or my book’s [Cowboys] unexpected turn, it was a secret I kept from myself.” Of course, the author made it work, and the ranch served as a connecting point between seasonal teaching and her many travels. The author’s affinity for the place is clearly powerful—and infectious for readers. “Ranch Archive,” which mostly recounts the history of the ranch itself, is the least engaging piece, but the rest are excellent, as the author enthuses readers through her prose and attitude alike. Writing in the face of climate change, she refuses to shrink. “I am celebrating because this magnificent rock we live on demands celebration,” she writes. “I am celebrating because how in the face of this earth could I not?” By the end of the book, she has been through it all—fires, blizzards, murdered animals, and more—and we understand when she writes, “when you give yourself wholly to a piece of ground, its goodness enters your bloodstream like an infusion. You will never be alone in the same way again, and never quite dislocated. Your heart will grow down into and back out of that ground like a tree.”

A profound and inspiring love letter to one piece of Earth—and to the rest of it, as well.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-24102-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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