There’s a thin line between precocious and overly precious, and this literary debut steps well across it.

A self-consciously odd coming-of-age memoir in the form of essays about places and objects.

A fashion writer and blogger, LaCava suffered some sort of depressive breakdown as a teenage American transplanted to France, but the details are sketchy, particularly in comparison with footnotes that often run longer on the page than the main text. “My strength with the written word,” she writes, “is the ability to make unlikely subjects somehow connect, a capacity that has never been my strong suit in life. I had never been patient enough to believe that looking back my sadness would all make sense. But it does now.” To the writer, perhaps, but not necessarily to readers, who may also have trouble appreciating the connections she sees. Much of the memoir concerns her adolescent “boredom verging on insanity, locked inside with my little belongings and endless ruminations.” Then there are the footnotes on the objects that became talismans, such as a skeleton key she found: “Consider the power of the early locksmith: his still was synonymous with security, and knowledge of his craft was hard to come by, as talented locksmiths didn’t want to share their secrets,” she writes by way of preamble to an explanation that runs three times as long. Ultimately, LaCava married (which we learn about in the acknowledgements) and learned from a reunion with a French classmate that he (and presumably others) hadn’t considered her so troubled, that all kids passed through that difficult stage, but she was correct that the other girls hadn’t liked her much. “These sorts of conditions never fully go away,” she writes. “I’d presented my childhood as full of whimsy and mystery rather than sadness, so much so that I’d started to believe this version as well.”

There’s a thin line between precocious and overly precious, and this literary debut steps well across it.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-196389-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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