Next book



A troubling yet compelling story of childhood deprivation, liberation, and, ultimately, hope.

A writer rehearses her girlhood in a strict religious cult, the Exclusive Brethren, and how that group affected her family life.

Stott has emerged from her harsh, restrictive youth to write some well-received books (Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution, 2012, etc.) and to become a commentator on BBC Radio (radio was prohibited in her house) and a professor (Literature and Creative Writing/Univ. of East Anglia). In childhood, as she shows us clearly and painfully, such a future was inconceivable. She was in the fourth generation of family members belonging to the Exclusive Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian group—they still exist, though in different configurations—that instilled in her a profound fear of Satan and of disobeying approved practices. Although the author tells her own story, her father’s experiences receive far more than equal time. He left the Brethren when Stott was a young girl and became a ferocious reader, an actor in local theatrical productions, an adulterer (he later remarried), a gambler, and, sadly, embezzler (he spent some months in prison). Among the most wrenching scenes in a volume that has many are Stott’s stories about her father’s gambling (his pathetic roulette “system”) and her own unmooring from what she had always thought certain. She began having dark dreams and had difficulty adapting to her father’s new passions for radio, film, and theater. What eventually rescued her—as it did, in some ways, her father—were books. She became a voracious reader and a curious and eventually admiring investigator of the theories of Darwin, who, she had learned earlier, was an emissary of Satan. Her father had written an unfinished memoir, a project she vowed to complete when he died. The final six weeks of his life provide part of Stott’s narrative framework.

A troubling yet compelling story of childhood deprivation, liberation, and, ultimately, hope.

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8908-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

Next book


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

Next book



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

Close Quickview