A useful, provocative spotlight on one of the leading lights of the 20th century.

The many sides of Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009).

Boyagoda (American Studies/Ryerson Univ.; Beggar’s Feast, 2011, etc.) does a true service by offering this first full-length biography of the Christian cleric. Though Neuhaus was a man who defied labels, he was classified by many as a radical leftist, neoconservative, Lutheran, Catholic, activist, writer, etc. Boyagoda begins with a compelling account of Neuhaus’ boyhood as the precocious son of a conservative Lutheran pastor in Canada. One of eight children, he nevertheless soon stood out as unique, playing preacher and giving sermons to his little sister. Despite largely misspent teen years, which Boyagoda does not blanch to reveal, Neuhaus finally settled into a life of the mind at a St. Louis Lutheran seminary. There, he caused trouble not so much through alcohol and pranks as through doctrinal difference. Eventually, Neuhaus pursued urban ministry in New York and fell headlong into the civil rights movement and liberal politics. By the end of the 1960s, however, his views had begun to change, and he began to move toward becoming one of America’s most recognizable neoconservatives. Moreover, he continued on a spiritual road that would eventually bring about his conversion to Catholicism and ordination as a Catholic priest in 1990. Along the way came international fame, the editorship of First Things and such acclaimed books as The Naked Public Square (1984). Neuhaus also rubbed shoulders with legions of important politicians, activists, theologians, pundits and others during the course of his life. Boyagoda dispassionately describes this fascinating and active life, and he manages to blend skills as a folksy storyteller, researcher and unbiased historian, providing a biography that is balanced, interesting and relevant.

A useful, provocative spotlight on one of the leading lights of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0307953964

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Image/Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014


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



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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