Powerful reading for students of European history.


A Latvian activist affectingly reconstructs the tragic stories of her grandparents and parents, who were persecuted by the Soviet occupiers and deported to Siberia.

The prosperous Dreifelds and the working-class Kalnietis families were among the many Latvians blindsided by the signing of a nonaggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany on Aug. 24, 1939. It divided Europe into two “spheres of influence,” and Latvia, along with Estonia and Lithuania, came under Soviet sway. Soviet military bases were established, an ominous mass repatriation of Germans followed and Latvia’s fragile 20-year-old independence was effectively eclipsed. Fourteen-year-old Ligita Dreifelde, the author’s mother, was arrested in the middle of the night on June 14, 1941, along with her mother and father. Wearing her precious dance shoes, she was transported in a cattle car crammed with 15,000 other unfortunates to the Siberian wilderness. She and her mother were separated from her father, who died shortly thereafter, though they did not officially learn his fate until 1990. They eked out a harsh living, and Ligita was granted permission to go home to Latvia in 1948. Toward the end of 1949, however, she was deported again, though not in time to reunite with her mother, who died alone on Feb. 4, 1950. In the Siberian village of Togur, Ligita met Aivars Kalnietis, exiled with his mother in March 1949 as the relatives of a “bandit.” (His father had joined the partisans resisting Soviet occupation in the countryside.) They married, and the author was born in Togur in1952. Her parents, forced to work in Soviet factories, vowed never to have another child: “We won’t give birth to any more slaves!” Although they were finally allowed to return to Latvia in 1957, the memories remained of their grim trials and the loved ones left behind in Siberian graves. Sometimes the author presents these trials in such dense detail that she loses sight of the bigger picture, but the diaries and eyewitness accounts offer a remarkable testimony of human fortitude.

Powerful reading for students of European history.

Pub Date: April 14, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56478-545-9

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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