At age 44, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, third child of Nathaniel Hawthorne, left her husband and a minor writing career to become a nun and care for poor people dying of cancer in an age that considered the disease to be communicable. Already the subject of three religious biographies, Valenti's book claims to offer Rose a secular and cultural setting and makes an attempt to account for her evolution. Born in 1851, Rose gained a sense of strangeness from her odd relations with her siblings and parents, their constantly moving about from Massachusetts to England, Rome, Germany, their illnesses, losses, and quarrels, until finally, orphaned at age 20, she married the talented and devoted writer. George Lathrop, who adored her, encouraged her to write, and helped to edit her father's letters. It was his manuscripts—the questions of who owned them and what was to be done with them—that alienated her from her siblings in her adult life, isolating her from her family during the terrible loss of her child at age five to diphtheria and the severe emotional collapse that followed. Attracted to the social mission of the Roman Catholic Church and its ``feminization'' in the Victorian period, she converted in 1891, along with her husband, then inexplicably sought a forbidden divorce. Rose left her husband , who later died ill and alone, and founded a community on the Lower East Side of New York called Servants for Relief of Incurable Cancer, offering shelter to patients she solicited through newspaper ads with funds from her high-minded friends and from the sale of her father's memoirs. Valenti (Communicative Arts/Pembroke State) brings little insight, depth, or understanding to this fascinating personality, mysteriously driven to live out the pathology of her father's gothic tales. Her own revealing poetry and stories deserve more than the superficial commentary Valenti offers. The story of Rose- -indeed the posthumous life of Hawthorne himself—is yet to be meaningfully told.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1991

ISBN: 0-8071-1612-2

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 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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