An uplifting historical account of humanitarianism with lessons in this increasingly isolationist time.



A historian focuses on a remarkable event in 1847 to illuminate a broader discussion about U.S. aid to other nations.

In his latest narrative history, Puleo (American Treasures: The Secret Efforts To Save the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, 2016, etc.) begins in Ireland. As a famine caused by failed potato crops led to countless deaths, diseases, homelessness, and desperate measures to leave the country, American officials and other citizens were captivated by the plight of the Irish. However, at this time, the U.S. government had never become involved in what today would be termed “foreign aid.” Furthermore, the logistics of how to gather money and food and how to transport the donations to Ireland were daunting—but not insurmountable. Puleo includes many exemplary individuals within the narrative, but there is one clear hero: ship captain Robert Bennet Forbes, an experienced seafarer who was inspired to do what he could to ameliorate the death and pestilence destroying Ireland. Throughout, the author portrays Forbes as unselfish in his motives, a man seemingly without ego. There is no doubting Forbes’ heroism, as he left his family to risk his life to serve as captain of the USS Jamestown, a refurbished warship filled with lifesaving foodstuffs. The voyage from the Boston port to the Irish coast involved more than two weeks of rough waters and other perils. As Puleo shifts the focus periodically to Ireland, he writes about Theobald Mathew, a minister who tried to maintain hope among a dying populace while pleading with authorities in England to demonstrate compassion. While the narrative thread of English-Irish hostility could be a book on its own, the author effectively shows how “the events of 1847 have served as the blueprint and inspiration for hundreds of American charitable relief efforts since, philanthropic endeavors that have established the United States as the leader in international aid in total dollars.”

An uplifting historical account of humanitarianism with lessons in this increasingly isolationist time.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20047-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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