An unflinchingly honest, moving memoir of loss and recovery.



How the author and his family overcame the loss of a child.

When his 8-year-old son Owen accidentally drowned on a family rafting trip, Gerson (French Studies/New York Univ.), his wife, Alison, and remaining son, Julian, were as shocked as they were grief-stricken. Owen’s death, writes the author, was “at once a ripple in the flow of everyday life and a disruption of the entire universe.” Desperate to understand his loss, Gerson went deep inside himself and began to write while Alison externalized her grief through exercise. As he imagined Owen growing up and old, the author obsessively revisited the day of Owen’s death and the hours that preceded it, carefully skirting around the actual incident itself. The strain of his son’s death eventually caused Gerson to develop a rash and then other symptoms of physical breakdown, including bowel irritation, a hernia, prostatitis, and tinnitus. The loss affected Gerson’s relationship to Alison as well as the relationships each had to their respective parents. Needing comfort, it was as though they had “bec[o]me children again.” Yet it also brought Gerson closer to his own history as the son of an American-born Jewish man whose own family escaped the Holocaust. A trip to Belarus with his father, Berl, and son made Gerson realize that “those who had failed to save loved ones did not necessarily live in shame or guilt.” This epiphany helped him to not only look directly at Owen’s death, but also see that he was not to blame for it. Berl’s own “good death” not long afterward released Gerson from his past, which allowed him to share the words he had penned about Owen with Alison and relive the civil lawsuit that followed the tragedy. Keenly observed and deeply felt, this book is not only a powerful reflection on grief and loss, but also an intimately textured history of fathers and sons.

An unflinchingly honest, moving memoir of loss and recovery.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-90669-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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