Parts of this will resonate deeply with certain readers, while others may wonder about the point of it all.

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THE BOY DETECTIVE

A NEW YORK CHILDHOOD

A memoir that proceeds by stealth and cunning, rewarding patient readers with some fine writing and provocative insights, though the short vignettes generate little narrative momentum.

A little past the 100-page mark, Rosenblatt (English and Writing/Stony Brook Univ.; Making Toast: A Family Story, 2010, etc.) asks, “Are we getting anywhere? Luckily we’re not going anywhere, so there’s nowhere to get.” And so it seems within this elliptical and evocative mixture of memory and dream. “[A]nyone can write a memoir about the events of a life,” writes the author near the end. “To do something originally yours, you must write about the dreams of your life, which are best disclosed in things you already know.” Despite the subtitle, the text more often is autumnal in tone, written by the septuagenarian author and writing professor to whom the “boy detective” is father (in the Wordsworth-ian sense). Though the present and the past of his native Gramercy Park blur and blend, it really isn’t one of those New York memoirs; only in certain sections does it offer what the author terms “the poem of the city.” The narrative hopscotches back and forth across decades and neighborhoods, daring readers (often addressed directly, sometimes as students, more often as pals) to solve the mystery or determine what the mystery might be. While belaboring the connection between the detective’s mission and the writer’s, he shows a safecracker’s precision in his reflections on death, truth and how the writer deals with both. Yet he resists letting readers pin him down. “Yours is the clarity, the shape and the theme,” he writes. “Mine is the shambles. And if I say that I am lost in admiration of you, while that is true, it is truer that I am lost, period, lost in everything. Nonetheless, I proceed even without a course or destination.”

Parts of this will resonate deeply with certain readers, while others may wonder about the point of it all.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-224133-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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