A tender evocation of fear, hope, and love.

SAVING CHARLOTTE

A MOTHER AND THE POWER OF INTUITION

A mother recounts a year in her family’s life as they confront their newborn’s devastating diagnosis.

In 2000, Dutch novelists de Jong’s third child was born with a strange bump on her back. A skin biopsy revealed that the baby had congenital myeloid leukemia, an exceedingly rare disease for which there was no standard treatment protocol. Her sympathetic pediatric oncologist could offer only chemotherapy but cautioned that it was so harsh that it might cause blindness, infertility, or death. Stunned, de Jong and her husband, Robbert, decided to forgo that option. The author quietly conveys the couple’s sense of desperation as they returned to their home in a seedy section of Amsterdam to watch and wait. She took a leave from her job to care for her infant and two young sons, determined to nourish, protect, and love the baby for whatever time she had left. At the hospital for her daughter’s bone-marrow biopsy and at weekly visits to the oncologist, de Jong observed the terrifying world of childhood cancer: pale, skinny children weakened by chemotherapy, hollow-eyed parents frustrated by their powerlessness. She felt as if she had entered a “portal of death.” At home, they were supported by a motley assortment of neighbors: a friendly young prostitute working out of a brothel across the street; an eccentric man living with his aging mother; another man who grew sicker each day. All offered sympathy and prayers. In contrast, people she hardly knew, impelled by “morbid curiosity disguised as empathy,” intruded with shocking, sometimes bizarre, remarks. After one disturbing visit, de Jong dug “a deep moat around our house” and “pulled up the drawbridge.” Since watching and waiting do not in themselves yield a lively narrative, de Jong shares details of family outings, childhood memories, and surreal dreams. In one, she is running home with her children on streets made of quicksand. Happily, readers know from the start that this story ends well.

A tender evocation of fear, hope, and love.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-60915-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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