Beautifully complex, raw and revealing.

ANNIE’S GHOSTS

A JOURNEY INTO A FAMILY SECRET

A family secret leads Washington Post senior editor Luxenberg to reinterpret his family history.

In 1995, the author learned that his aging mother had a sister she had never mentioned. It came up during a visit to the doctor; her parents had institutionalized their disabled two-year-old when she was four, she said, and she never saw her sister again. Since his mother was facing severe medical problems, Luxenberg felt this wasn’t the time to pursue the details. After his mother’s death a few years later, he learned that the sister’s name was Annie and she was buried with his grandparents in Michigan. Determined to discover the truth about Annie, he began his investigation with an endless list of difficult questions. He learned that Annie had a deformed leg, amputated in 1936 when she was 17, and mental health problems. Her parents committed her to a state institution in 1940, a time when such places served primarily to remove patients from society rather than to help them recover or become fit to live in the outside world. Luxenberg’s mother had been 23, not four, when Annie was committed. To the shame of being poor was added the stigma of having a sister in a state institution because they couldn’t afford anything better. She wanted a different future, and to achieve this she believed she would have to bury her sister and her own childhood; she began to deny Annie’s existence completely, telling people she was an only child. As Luxenberg slowly uncovers Annie’s story, he realizes that by exposing one ghost, he exposes thousands; by discovering one secret, he discovers those of his entire family. The author calls on his investigative reporting skills not just to uncover the facts, but to explore what happens when lies or omissions become truth, exposing the contradictions, contrasts and parallels that exist within every life, every relationship and every family.

Beautifully complex, raw and revealing.

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2247-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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