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OCCASIONS OF SIN

A MEMOIR

A tender but clear-eyed tribute.

Growing up with a mother whose big dreams were thwarted by a teenage pregnancy, inadequate education, and ill health.

Novelist Scofield (Opal on Dry Ground, 1994, etc.) also vividly evokes parochial and public school life in Texas during the 1950s. Her mother, who grew up poor and frail in West Texas, worked while she could on political campaigns, became a devout Catholic, and briefly took in a foster child. Her husband left her, had little to do with their children, and eventually remarried and disappeared altogether. From early childhood, Scofield was determined to achieve what her mother had been denied and to make all those sacrifices worthwhile. Young Sandra didn’t always understand Mom’s actions, like having herself photographed in the nude shortly before she died, but she was the most important figure in the life of her daughter, who treasured their times together talking, reading, and praying. Scofield recalls a childhood during which she was often the caregiver, making meals, taking charge of her younger sister, and nursing their mother. Sent away to Catholic boarding school, Sandra was homesick and lonely. In her junior year she came back to Odessa, Texas, to attend public school, where she found new challenges: boys, cliques, and a less nurturing atmosphere. Her greatest struggle, however, came in trying to keep her mother alive after a diagnosis of Bright’s disease, which was not then treatable. Ignorant of what the diagnosis meant, Scofield was not prepared for her mother’s long, painful illness at home and eventual death from kidney failure at age 33. Until the final, fatal day, Scofield was sure she could “rally the heavenly troops and keep her going.” Now middle-aged, the author still grieves for a woman who made mistakes, but was easy to love.

A tender but clear-eyed tribute.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-393-05735-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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