An admirable debut memoir featuring both a compelling narrator and a captivating story.

Lily's Daughter

A MEMOIR

An illuminating coming-of-age memoir set in communist Hungary.

Born to a Jewish mother and Catholic father in 1940, Zsuzsa feels beloved and pampered. By late 1944, the family huddles in a tiny coal cellar with neighbors and listens to the bombs overhead as Nazis invade Budapest. They survive, only to face another type of prison: life under the Stalin regime and, later, the Russian occupation. As she moves through her childhood and teenage years, the precocious Zsuzsa offers cleareyed observations about her relationship with her parents (particularly her mother), friendships, schoolwork, theater and the discovery of boys, along with the struggles to find basics like food, clothing and shelter. Wild rumors fly amid the unexplained disappearances of teachers, family and friends, while arbitrary new government rules lead to nonstop pressure. The contrast of the ordinary and extraordinary creates a fascinating tension. Instead of normal summer camp in the woods, Zsuzsa attends Pioneer Camp at a crumbling mansion where she’s forced into night-guard duty. Instead of a full day of instruction, school hours include singing Red Army songs and marching and standing in formation. Vivid sensory details capture each experience, whether eating a juicy orange for the first time in years or listening to the clattering printing press where her journalist father works. Periodic short sentences and paragraphs cut to the painful truth: “School starts. Fourth grade. A completely new teacher appears.” The 100-plus short sections, organized chronologically, feel cohesive and well-paced, particularly after the opening pages, which provide the background of Zsuzsa’s parents. With its authentic voice and keen observations from a youthful narrator, the story evokes The Diary of Anne Frank. Secondary characters are briefly but vividly introduced and easy to differentiate. The particularly riveting last section offers the delightful paradox of wanting to read faster to reach the conclusion but slower to prolong the enjoyment.

An admirable debut memoir featuring both a compelling narrator and a captivating story.

Pub Date: April 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468563566

Page Count: 400

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2012

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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