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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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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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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