A welcome second installment for readers who enjoyed Janzen’s first memoir. Others may want to turn elsewhere.

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DOES THIS CHURCH MAKE ME LOOK FAT?

A MENNONITE FINDS FAITH, MEETS MR. RIGHT, AND SOLVES HER LADY PROBLEMS

Continuing her search for spiritual relevance in everyday life, Janzen (Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, 2009) recounts the travails and joys encountered while finding love, embracing her new beau’s religion, and surviving breast cancer.

Newly single, the author stepped into the dating world and ended up with an unlikely Mr. Wonderful. A huge, goateed rocker with a permit to carry a concealed weapon, he was a reformed alcoholic with a light Southern accent who uttered pronouncements like, “Well, I’ll be double-dipped!” Janzen was mesmerized, she repeatedly informs the reader, by his giant pectorals and his Pentecostal church. “He loved the pastor, the people, the worship,” she writes. “He loved the teaching, the service programs, the bake sales. It was clear to me that this church was an expression of his core values. If I was to keep dating him, I would need to see what it was all about.” The author also covers a lot of other territory in her memoir—life as an English teacher; her breast cancer; the vast differences between Pentecostals and Mennonites, the religion she grew up with; her family relationships; her hot new romance; and her new relationship with God—and her peppy enthusiasm almost bounds off the page. Some readers, however, may grow tired of the author’s continuously emphatic tone or her constant attempts to appear slightly naughty by divulging topics good girls would not discuss. Also, she makes entirely too much use of the exclamation point—e.g., “If Lazarus was peacefully rotting there in the tomb and if at the sound of Jesus’s voice, he up and trotted out—well, miraculous! He left death and disease behind, yay! Stank hath no hold on him!”

A welcome second installment for readers who enjoyed Janzen’s first memoir. Others may want to turn elsewhere.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4555-0288-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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