Pleasant and sympathetic, even in its darker moments—of particular interest to readers schooled at the barre.

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THE OTHER MOTHER

A REMEMOIR

Affecting memoir of intergenerational friendship.

Bernice Rosalie Miller, aka Byrne, was a pioneer of modern dance, a graduate of the school of hard knocks and the burlesque stage who grew comfortably old with a struggling-writer husband, Duncan, both fixtures in the cultural life of Beaufort, S.C. It was there that Bruce, a dancer and gymnast–turned–TV reporter looking for a different path, met them. Bruce was involved in a difficult relationship, complex as only difficult relationships can be, and still wounded by the tragic death of a young brother years before, so that friendship with the Millers came at just the right time, as Byrne became the voice of experience and “other mother” that Bruce needed. The author traces their stories separately and together, marking, in understated prose, the points where roads were not taken and fateful decisions were made. The Millers’ love story is invigorating and often charming, if now a touch old-fashioned; the modern Don Juan does not tug away a woman’s scarf and say, “Hold nothing back, my love….Every part of you is too stunning to subdue.” The narrative occasionally drags in earnestness, and the players are sometimes less scintillating than Bruce might wish; not everything they do and say is drenched in genius. In particular, Byrne’s apothegms (“Monogamy is overrated. Honesty is imperative”) become tiresome—Harold and Maude without the Harold. However, Bruce does a good job of weaving divergent stories into one, and there are some nice moments of emotion and drama, as when a manuscript of Duncan’s confronts Byrne with some uncomfortable truths (if disguised as fictions) at the same time that Byrne’s daughter decides to do the very thing that would shock her bohemian parents the most: enlist in the Marines.

Pleasant and sympathetic, even in its darker moments—of particular interest to readers schooled at the barre.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9841073-9-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Joggling Board Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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