A middling book, much of it a footnote to an event that’s already well-receded into history, even though it is part of a...

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THE HOSTAGE'S DAUGHTER

A STORY OF FAMILY, MADNESS, AND THE MIDDLE EAST

A firsthand view of conflict in the Middle East.

In 1985, Shiite militia in Lebanon kidnapped Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson and held him hostage for the next six years. It wasn’t until his release in 1991 that his daughter, the author, met him for the first time, and ever after the relationship was fraught. He suffered from PTSD and was emotionally unavailable, “numb and dismissive,” while, to judge by this memoir, his daughter was emotionally needy and made her fair share of poor decisions. Drug abuse, abusive boyfriends, mental illness: all are aspects of “the legacy of trauma I was born with.” Though the author’s point is well-taken that political acts have reverberating consequences that affect people far away from the main stage, her narrative is always less interesting when the focus is on her. Her father is another matter; though clearly flawed and wounded, he emerges as a player in a political drama of a complex, sometimes nearly incomprehensible character. Anderson is at her best when she teases apart the narrative’s many threads, which number not just Hezbollah, but also the broader community of Shiite Islam, to say nothing of Israeli intelligence, the CIA, Iran, and other actors in set pieces such as the Beirut embassy bombing. The author’s vigorous on-the-ground investigation of these matters, talking with sometimes-shadowy and seldom pleasant operatives, redeems the book from its self-absorbed excesses. The narrative is also timely; though some of the cast has changed, Anderson’s depiction of the relationship between Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees, say, shows how enmities and alliances in the region have taken years to form. Ultimately, it’s a solid but not groundbreaking contribution to understanding the multifaceted tensions of a region that seems willfully resistant to peace.

A middling book, much of it a footnote to an event that’s already well-receded into history, even though it is part of a larger conflict still unfolding.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238549-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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