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A unique vision, presented in rough-hewn prose.

Novelist Wolfe (The Parrot Trainer, 2003, etc.) recalls a childhood growing up poor in Colorado and Montana during the 1940s and ’50s, a time when he was deeply unhappy but fully occupied.

The first thing he remembers is living rather high on the hog in Colorado. His father was chief physician at Woodman, a tuberculosis sanatorium; his mother was its chief administrator. Their relationship was unfulfilling, so there was always tension in the Wolfe household. The strain prompted their son to search the Woodman grounds for secrets behind the veil of everyday life, sometimes making a real discovery (the stairwell hidden by ferns that led to an underground tunnel) and sometimes an imaginary one (the “secret room” that he dreamed he found behind his bedroom wall). Penicillin put an end to the sanatorium, and the family took a financial plunge. Wolfe, his mentally challenged sister and his mother moved into a tent in the country. His father, now a morphine addict and child-beater, lived in town. With easy poise and an artisan’s exactitude, Wolfe explains that he found grace and acceptance in the outdoors, escaping “the usual fighting and fucking scenario that played out in the farmhouse” back home with Mom and his new stepdad. Outside, he found further opportunities to see behind the veil, into the mystery of his own universe: on skis, plunging through a blinding dazzle of powder or voyaging atop his horse. To get away from her abusive second husband, Mom took them to Montana, even though “Missoula in the 1950s was not a great place for adult misfits.” Later, Wolfe took work as a logger and a copper-miner; about each trade he spins stories both magic and real. Whatever the subject, the author’s underlying topic is “the play of things, [the] stuff that constantly glittered and zinged around in my head.”

A unique vision, presented in rough-hewn prose.

Pub Date: June 21, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-31093-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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