A nostalgic portrait of the last presidency.

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BARACK AND JOE

THE MAKING OF AN EXTRAORDINARY PARTNERSHIP

The chronicle of a political “bromance.”

Journalist Levingston (Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights, 2017, etc.), nonfiction book editor of the Washington Post, examines the partnership between Barack Obama and Joe Biden, which, the author gushes, “evolved into a friendship of profound depth, one never before witnessed in the history of the American presidency.” His admiration for this relationship serves to justify this book. Unfortunately for Levingston, neither Obama nor Biden consented to interviews or replied to emails, although he did manage to interview sources such as Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. From those responses, along with videos, blogs, twitter posts, various media reports, speeches, and the protagonists’ memoirs—all public documents—Levingston weaves a lively narrative about an unlikely alliance between the taciturn Obama and gregarious, voluble Biden. After an initially cool assessment of one another, growing mutual respect led Obama to choose Biden for vice president due to his experience and skill working with Congress, his popularity among working-class voters, and their agreement “on matters of international import.” Obama, Levingston maintains, admired Biden’s personal story: “his character in the face of profound setbacks,” his willingness to question “the meaning of life and his place in it,” and his “devotion to his family,” traits that Obama felt he shared. The author stretches to include any commonalities he can identify—for example, that both men used sports metaphors. Nevertheless, as Levingston recounts their relationship during the campaign’s high and low points and throughout eight years of facing economic, social, and military crises, he points out many occasions when the two men seemed close. In particular, Obama’s demonstrative sympathy for Biden when his son Beau died of brain cancer is compelling evidence of the sincerity of his friendship and love. But the author is at a loss to explain Obama’s reticence in supporting Biden’s current campaign for the presidency, and he ends simply by proclaiming the bromance mesmerizing and inspiring.

A nostalgic portrait of the last presidency.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-48786-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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