A pedantic, tedious hardcover debut in which Grimes (the paperback Almost Perfect) presents an imaginary journal kept by Martha Jefferson, beloved wife of Thomas, during the passionate but tragically few years of their marriage. Thomas and Patty (as Martha was known to her family) have eyes only for each other from their first meeting in October 1770, but although a 21-year-old widow with a young son, Patty is determined never to marry again, so shattered was she by her husband's preference for his slave mistress over her. The courtship proceeds in spite of her resolve, however, and eventually Thomas's love and respect for her overcome her objections. Married New Year's Day, 1772, they move to cramped temporary lodgings while Monticello is being painstakingly built, and begin to raise a family. The issue of slave emancipation becomes a frequent theme through the years as naive Patty learns the bitter realities of the black experience from her temperamental but trusted handmaid, Betty, who was her late father's concubine and bore him many children (though she despised him for keeping her from her husband). Meanwhile, the political situation in Virginia and the Colonies takes Thomas away from Patty for long periods, and the pain of each parting is recorded faithfully, along with many details of the war for American independence. Not surprisingly, the births, stillbirths, and deaths of their children figure prominently also, as do countless instances of Patty's liver-fevers and other ailments, which kept her husband increasingly by her side until she died in 1782—an event that left him bereft of his senses for a time, but that finally allowed him to return to the political sphere he loved with a similar intensity. Historically accurate and sincere—but also a redundant, overly precious patchwork of a courageous woman's private thoughts and the colorful American life swirling around her.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-42399-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1992

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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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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...


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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