Gripping, emotional depictions of the conflicts that rage in the interior and exterior worlds of a spy—and of a journalist.

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THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN

A FATHER, A SON, AND THE CIA

A former Newsweek foreign correspondent reviews his often perplexing experiences as the son of a CIA operative.

Now a freelance journalist, Johnson begins in 1973, his birth year, with a story about a snake charmer in India, where his father was stationed. The snake charmer proves an apt metaphor for the mysterious elder Johnson, a sophisticated persuader whose ability to charm was his deadliest arrow as he sought to flip other agents and foreign nationals. The author does not obey a strict chronology. After 10 chapters that deliver us to 2001, Johnson returns to Mexico City in 1968, wondering if or how his father was involved in the deadly violence that occurred there just before the Olympics. Rendering the question even more wrenching is his realization that Johnson père could have been involved in the arrest of the father of a woman Johnson fils was dating. About halfway through, the narrative arrives near the present with a summary of the author's sometimes-harrowing experiences covering the war in Iraq; he survived an IED explosion while riding in a Marine vehicle and had other brushes with death. We also hear about Sarajevo in 2004 and, in later chapters, about visits with his uneasily retired father in Spokane. They took some road trips, and en route, we learn about some of the missions and adventures of Johnson père, though he says he resents interrogations. Nonetheless, the author kept pushing him to impart as much family and professional history as possible, trying to understand a man with such a deadly past who nonetheless both professes and demonstrates a profound love for his son.

Gripping, emotional depictions of the conflicts that rage in the interior and exterior worlds of a spy—and of a journalist.

Pub Date: May 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-23980-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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