No mere litany of loss, this bittersweet story recounts the survival of the human spirit and family love.

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Life in Asymmetry

A HOPEFUL JOURNEY OVER THE PEAKS AND VALLEY OF GENETIC BREAST CANCER

A debut memoir traces how breast cancer affected two generations of one tightknit family, leading to the author undergoing preventive surgery.

Adler is a Davis, California, wellness coach. Her mother and her “twin separated by 16 years,” older sister Lisa, were both diagnosed with breast cancer during a six-month period, forcing Adler to face her own genetic predisposition. The author was enrolled at the University of California at Santa Cruz when her mother had a lumpectomy. Soon Lisa, a 36-year-old mother of two, was diagnosed too; eight years later, she underwent a second mastectomy. Genetic testing had improved by then; it confirmed that Lisa registered positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation. Adler, considered high-risk, started having mammograms at age 26. Meanwhile, their mother was now ill with lung cancer. The author had recently moved back to California from New Jersey with her husband after getting a master’s in public health, and she hosted her mother for her last Thanksgiving before she died in hospice care. This mildly disastrous holiday—complete with a broken garbage disposal and Tofurkey—is a highlight. The siblings lost their father to a heart attack in August 2007. Then, with cancer metastasized to her spine and brain, Lisa died at a hospice center at the end of 2008. Adler’s final promise to Lisa was to go through with the double mastectomy she’d been planning because she learned she also carried BRCA2. “I was choosing this…rather than living in a place of constant concern,” Adler writes. She forthrightly shares her experience of arranging her sister’s funeral, then undergoing a complicated surgery that included MRSA infection and DIEP flap (a type of breast reconstruction) failure. Now she calls herself a cancer “previvor.” This lively memoir is cleverly shaped around breast-related memories, starting with childhood longing—“As a little girl, I dreamed of having boobies”—and moving on to their role in romance and breast-feeding. The chapters are named after slang terms like “Jugs” and “Knockers.” Such touches of humor and whimsy, and Adler’s overall optimism, keep the book from becoming too sad.

No mere litany of loss, this bittersweet story recounts the survival of the human spirit and family love.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-5882-8

Page Count: 242

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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