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A fond view of a father-son relationship and a loving tribute from a minister to a son who chose a different spiritual path...

A father’s deeply felt memoir of witnessing his son’s final months and grieving at the young man’s death.

In April 2005, Lischer (The End of Words: The Language of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence, 2005, etc.), a Lutheran minister and faculty member at Duke Divinity School, received a phone call from his 33-year-old son Adam telling him that his melanoma had returned. What the author did not know was that in little more than three months, Adam would be dead. Stories of battling cancer are commonplace, as are stories of bereavement; what gives this story a twist is the religious angle. When Lischer’s son learned of his diagnosis, he became more heavily involved in the Catholic Church. He and his pregnant Catholic wife adopted a series of daily rituals that involved lighting candles, attending Mass, praying and reading the Bible. As his son’s faith was increasing, Lischer’s was drying up: “I saw my son…motionless, serene as a sanded statue, and lost in a realm I could not enter.” The author compares his experiences with his dying son to walking the Stations of the Cross, but here the reminders of pain are more mundane—visits to labs, meetings with oncologists, etc. By June, Lischer was searching for a cemetery, and in July, he was camping out in his son’s hospital room listening for his last breath. After Adam’s death, the author came to see grief as a series of dark caves of longing and despair that one repeatedly falls into, not unlike the anguish of a parent watching over a terminally ill child. The book ends on a somewhat brighter note with the baptism of Adam’s daughter.

A fond view of a father-son relationship and a loving tribute from a minister to a son who chose a different spiritual path in his life and to his death.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-96053-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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