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A glib, charming take on a popular watersport.

A midlife crisis spurs an adventure writer to pursue surfing.

At 45, having just completed a mountain-climbing expedition in Tibet, Heller (The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals, 2008, etc.) was eager for a new adventure. He found it in Orange County, Calif., where a college buddy proposed that they learn to surf. Neoprene wetsuits and surfboards set the stage for a reckless, overconfident first attempt at Huntington Beach that went awry (“windmilling arms, big splashes”) and incited the ire of nearby seasoned pros who recognize a “kook” (beginner surfer) when they see one. Undeterred by bruising and exhaustion, Heller continued even after he’d abandoned the beach for several writing opportunities and returned three years later fortified with a healthy determination to become a skilled surfer in just six months. Though his restless lifestyle had made him romantically undesirable in the past, current girlfriend Kim agreed to join him and the pair married. Heller and his new wife soon became ensconced in the Southern California surfing community, then traveled to Mexico. However, their new adventures were tabled in favor of Heller’s participation in exposing the slaughter of whales and dolphins by Japanese fishermen. The author deviates from his waterborne exploits to opine on the state of surfing (a booming “billion-dollar industry”) and its diverse culture, and he notes that his time negotiating coastal waters afforded him the opportunity to assess the rapidly deteriorating state of West Coast beaches and coastal erosion. Negotiating riptides and surprise swells, Heller eventually developed a fresh appreciation for “the forces a surfer deals with” and, even as a neophyte, applauded their “prowess and grace.” “Surfers are an intense bunch,” he writes, “and they love their coast the way they love their mothers.”

A glib, charming take on a popular watersport.

Pub Date: July 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9420-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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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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