No literary tell-all, this chatty yet reflective history instead charts the Lowell family’s dissolution through money and mental illness. With considerable narrative deftness, novelist Stuart (Men in Trouble, 1998) motors through centuries of Lowells (James Russell was Robert Lowell’s great-granduncle, Amy a distant cousin) and related families, concentrating on some of Bobby’s (his family nickname) pivotal relations. There was his “cold and proper” mother, Charlotte Lowell; grandfather Arthur Winslow, whose approval he craved; and stern, rich Aunt Sarah, who loved yet then spurned Bobby. Sarah, the “sweet, silly” baby sister of Charlotte, centered the clan, revealing their occasional artistic blind spots (“Why doesn’t Bobby write about the sea?— she once asked. “It’s so pretty”) and holding the family together even when it didn’t want that. Depression-era real-estate investments and disinheritance in the 1960s lost the family money, and Stuart offers enough equivocation about it for cynics to call this the “I was related to Lowell and all I got was a lousy book contract” memoir. Not only did Great-uncle Cot (Sarah’s husband) bequeath fortune and effects to museums, but Stuart was also denied the official family “Sarah” painting by John Singleton Copley because she “didn’t have a proper wall to hang it on.” Stuart, who rebelled her way through the 1970s, knows the score: “we asked for such treatment, though we didn’t like it when we got it.” The family also lost money when financing psychiatric treatment for Bobby, for Stuart’s mother and brother, and others. Stuart describes the roller-coaster of manic-depression with precision and compassion; her quotations from Bobby’s works are particularly useful. Above all, she is matter-of-fact. Though her glib asides sometimes backfire and her analysis lacks distance, this is an idiosyncratic alternative view of a leading American literary family. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-017689-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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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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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...


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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