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Critics will charge, rightly, that this account smacks of hagiography—but taken for what it is (i.e., a personal memoir of...

A loving, tender portrait.

For readers who don’t want to plow through George Weigel’s hefty biography of John Paul II (Witness to Hope, 1999), this slender volume by former US Ambassador to the Vatican Flynn (A Public Body, 1998) is a good choice. The author first met the future pope in 1969. At the time, Flynn was a candidate for state representative in Massachusetts, and Karol Wojtyla (as he was then known) was the Archbishop of Krakow. Flynn left their first meeting wishing he could talk to him longer. Eventually, of course, Wojtyla became John Paul II, and he made another trip to Boston, where Flynn renewed the acquaintance. At that point Flynn began to “keep track” of the pope, following his visits to the US and his papacy more generally (one of the most moving passages of the book is Flynn’s description of the horror and anxiety he felt when the Pope was shot). While serving as mayor of Boston, Flynn was asked by President Clinton to serve as ambassador to the Vatican. After some hesitation Flynn accepted, in large part because he wanted to get to know John Paul. He did. As ambassador, he had the chance to discuss many important international issues (such as the Vatican’s relationship with Israel and the troubles in Ireland) with the pope, and he came to know him as something of a family friend. The author provides an insider’s portrait of John Paul, depicting him as both genuine believer and a shrewd politician. He describes the pope’s devotion to the Virgin Mary, and his attempt to respond to the Shoah. Above all, he humanizes him, painting a portrait of a sometimes-melancholy pontiff, a man who was concerned when Flynn’s son was hospitalized, a friend who seemed sad to see the ambassador leave in 1997.

Critics will charge, rightly, that this account smacks of hagiography—but taken for what it is (i.e., a personal memoir of an enigmatic and powerful man), it is deeply satisfying.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26681-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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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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