Affectionate, with a bracing air of locality—the kind of microhistory that will yield gold for more sweeping history...



Masin’s portrait of his father, a renowned athlete of northern New Jersey in the ’30s and ’40s.

As historians turn more and more to intimately drawn, tightly focused stories of the Everyman to provide meaning and texture to the progress of time, this biography is just the kind of material they will seek out. Masin has written a loving story of his father, who, like all good fathers, was an exceptional man in his son’s eyes: generous (except with allowances), gentle, attentive and full of quirks and eccentricities. But the senior Masin, known as “Swede,” was also a star athlete—state champion in the shot put, voted most outstanding state player in basketball and All-American in soccer (when he happened to pick up the sport) and captain of three teams in college—as well as humble and a gentleman. So powerful and pervasive was Swede’s image in New Jersey that Philip Roth took him as the starting point for his character Swede Levov in American Pastoral. Like Masin’s father, Roth also graduated from Weequahic High School in Newark, N.J., and it is in drawing that city’s Weequahic section that Masin steps outside the personal and tackles the psychogeographic. He inspects not only the lay of this particular land, but the day-to-day life of his father’s part of town: where he hung out, the street life, school, socializing, food, architecture, theater, sledding in the park, liberal politics and more. Masin also explores how Swede was “this nice Jewish boy, living in a wonderful Jewish neighborhood, with kind Jewish parents,” a kid who rarely gave his parents grief, “but marrying a shiksa, well, that was devastating.” His parents managed to survive the devastation and the book pays nearly as close attention to Estelle’s Italian background as it does to Swede’s; a feisty, outspoken family, though Masin’s most evocative memory is the spaghetti and meatballs. Playfully teasing portrayals of the author’s brother and sisters adds a satisfying completeness to the Swede’s impact.

Affectionate, with a bracing air of locality—the kind of microhistory that will yield gold for more sweeping history projects.

Pub Date: July 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1440144356

Page Count: 236

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2010

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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