LAST HOUSE ON THE ROAD

EXCURSIONS INTO A RURAL PAST

The reclamation of an 18th-century New Hampshire farmstead over the past 25 years provides an enchanting ``natural sequel'' to Eighty Acres, the author's popular 1990 memoir of growing up on a Michigan farm. Jager, a former Yale philosophy professor, and his wife bought the Cape Codstyle farmhouse and 100 acres near Washington, N.H., in 1966. Though they did not move in full-time until the late 1970s, renovation began almost immediately, as did Jager's research into the place and the surrounding community. They christened the spread ``Lovellwood,'' after the mountain that looms over the property. The house had been abandoned for years, and the woods were beginning to reclaim pastures and meadows, while some sections simply lay fallow. Jager learned that Ebenezer Wood, a Revolutionary War Minuteman, was the ``original settler'' on the place in 1780, or '81. When he began work on the interior, he discovered Wood's original framing—``built to last forever''—of pine, spruce, and hemlock beams, held together by oak treenails, or trunnels, as they were called. He exposed those beams, removing layers of wallpaper and cow-hair- and horsehair-bound plaster. Jager also discovered (while mowing the lawn) the original hearthstones Wood had chiseled from the local granite. They had been ``ditched'' by the Powers family, who'd bought the place in 1857, when they remodeled at the turn of the century. While the refurbishing of the house is the central topic, Jager also offers a look at contemporary country living and rural New England politics. He strings together several lovely natural history pieces, such as his eloquent proclamation on his love for the woods; his fond, reasoned farewell to deer hunting; and his cornucopian description of the forest's encroachment on a lush meadow he's trying to save. A joy: like getting a letter from a modern-day Thoreau, one who takes sensual pleasure in writing, and has his feet planted firmly on the soil.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 1994

ISBN: 0-8070-7062-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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