An engaging and detailed portrait of a 20th-century woman and the communities she tended.



A biography focuses on a venerable woman who left her mark on Berkeley, California.

“Where did Jacomena Adriana van Huizen come from, and how did she become Jackie Maybeck?” Valois asks before launching into her story about the life of her close friend and sometime landlord. Born to Dutch immigrants, van Huizen arrived in California as a young child at the tail end of the gold rush, and her parents fell in love with the countryside east of Berkeley. The family became friendly with the Maybecks, introducing van Huizen to her future husband, Wallen, and future father-in-law, Bernard, a visionary architect who designed more than 150 distinctive buildings in the area. The Maybeck clan would rotate between Bernard’s different houses as it weathered cultural shifts, the Depression, and wars—with Jackie Maybeck and her husband eventually creating their own street named for their daughters: “Maybeck Twin Drive.” Valois documents every move, property, and mood of her subject throughout these changes, leading up to the moment that the author herself met Maybeck as a warm, welcoming widow devoted to art and her family’s properties: “My chore is the hill. I feel that I am the last of the Maybecks.” Valois’ careful selection of quotes from Maybeck’s contradictory, “Rashomon-like” diaries are deployed to great effect, furthering the vision of a charming woman anyone would love to know. (Most intriguing are the author’s interpretations of Maybeck’s lengthy story “Journey: Small Adventure” as a thinly disguised autofiction about time spent in Europe after World War II.) Valois is overly concerned with the details of who lived where and when at times, to the detriment of her biography’s main strength: the familial communities centered on Maybeck and her Berkeley homes. But the author’s deep respect for the woman shines through on every page. In the end, the account feels like a nostalgic conversation about a deeply loved, mutual friend.

An engaging and detailed portrait of a 20th-century woman and the communities she tended.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-116-8

Page Count: 265

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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A self-aware confessional from a successful and controversial musician.


The Grammy-winning Irish singer/songwriter looks back on her eventful life.

Promising candor and clarity, O’Connor (b. 1966) opens with a caveat that her story only details lucid periods of her life when she was psychologically “present.” Omitting hazy years in which she drifted off “somewhere else inside myself”—material some readers may wish she included—the author shares pivotal milestones (raising four children) and entertaining anecdotes. O’Connor vividly recalls an abusive Catholic childhood in Dublin with a cruel, unstable mother. As a rebellious teenager, she was sent to a reform asylum, where her love for music became the ultimate refuge, leading to band gigs and eventually a record deal in London in 1985. The Lion and the Cobra achieved gold status, and O’Connor describes the development of her persona: shaved head, baggy clothing, and stormy, antagonistic, always forthright demeanor. The author addresses her mental health challenges and experimentation with sex and drugs (“In the locked ward where they put you if you’re suicidal, there’s more class A drugs than in Shane MacGowan’s dressing room”) as well as two iconic moments in her career: her smash-hit cover of the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U” and her notorious performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, when she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II. “A lot of people say or think that tearing up the pope’s photo derailed my career. That’s not how I feel about it,” she writes. Rather, it allowed her to return to her roots as a live performer instead of remaining on the pop-star trajectory (“you have to be a good girl for that”). In cathartic sections, O’Connor considers the era leading up to that appearance as a personal death, with the years following a kind of “rebirth.” Though she touches on her agoraphobia and later psychological issues, with which many of her fans will be familiar, the final third of the memoir sputters somewhat, growing less revelatory than earlier passages.

A self-aware confessional from a successful and controversial musician.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-42388-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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