An unblinking portrait of how drugs destroy lives.



A saddening account of the effects of opioid addiction on a household “just like yours perhaps.”

The “house on stilts” of the title is a backyard treehouse in which Hunter, child of Becker (Looking for Betty MacDonald: The Egg, the Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and I, 2016, etc.) and her physician husband, once played; later, it became a refuge for the drug-addicted young man, forbidden entry into the home. That descent into addiction is now so common as to be nearly universal, but it takes those who must bear the collateral damage of chemical dependency often unawares. One minute, as she notes, they’re reading Harry Potter and baking pies, and the next the child is in the basement shooting up. Naturally, Becker shoulders some of the blame. She and her husband tried to shelter their children from the worst aspects of modern culture, home-schooling and banning most TV programs, which seems to have lent Hunter “the quality of a lost person, of someone without a map.” Sensitive and intelligent, he exhibited a desire for risk-taking and sensation, very much unlike his mother, who confesses to never having taken drugs even in “the freewheeling 1970s.” As she learned, the decades separating her era from her son’s constitute a vast gulf, unbridgeable in the end. That end is, of course, tragic. Becker’s account is rueful and increasingly self-aware. She moves from a kind of wide-eyed innocence to a recognition that the whole thing is, as a chapter title has it, “totally fucked,” but always with a backward glance at where she went wrong. Was it too much indulgence, too much protection? Probably not; as she writes of her son, “he was fully equipped for happiness—we gave him all the tools." All the same, as she writes, drugs and addiction recognize no boundaries and put the lie to the best of intentions.

An unblinking portrait of how drugs destroy lives.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60938-659-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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