The account of a writer's quest to understand her place in the grand generational scheme of her family.

Poet McClanahan (Deep Light, 2007, etc.) was the family "archive junkie [and] keeper of all things outdated and moldy.” Then one day, she realized that for all her apparent knowledge, the truth about her forebears' lives was "wider and deeper" than she realized. She begins her account by delving into the pages of her Great Aunt Bessie's 1897 diary, interweaving actual fragments from it with her own imaginative reconstructions of Bessie's life in rural Indiana. McClanahan then builds on the day-to-day details of Bessie’s letters, pictures and other family documents to construct a narrative that depicts a hardworking family of farmers and day laborers who helped tame the Indiana frontier and build its cities. She includes a whole cast of colorful family characters but emphasizes the relationships between and among the females, including Bessie, her sister, their mother and the author’s mother; it was the women who unwittingly served as family chroniclers. Inevitably, McClanahan's research uncovers painful secrets, including her grandmother's possible participation in Women of the KKK. The narrative is complex, with the author attempting to depict several generations within a family but also place that family within larger historical contexts. Because it focuses on the minutiae of lived reality (especially in the first half of the text) and tries to do too much at once, it may leave readers—except perhaps those with a specific interest in early Hoosier social history—in a knot of frustration. Moving at times, but narratively overreaching.  


Pub Date: March 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-253-00859-6

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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 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...


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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