Rambler Rose

The author’s mother and father got a divorce at a time when it was still taboo. Later, her family included several half...

Metcalf’s memoir explores growing up in 1950s and ’60s California with a complicated family.

The author’s mother and father got a divorce at a time when it was still taboo. Later, her family included several half siblings; her sister, Lynn; and multiple grandparents, including the artistic Nana. The first part of the memoir is crammed with genealogy, which slows the story down, but the pace picks up when Metcalf’s mother remarries. The author’s relationship with her stepfather is depicted as initially fraught with anger and suspicion, but later, they seem to come to an understanding. Metcalf dreamt of being a Hollywood star and liked to socialize rather than study. After getting suspended at public school, she attended an all-girls Catholic high school and later converted to the faith. Eventually, after going through romantic relationships and secretarial school, she wound up at the University of California, Berkeley. Metcalf grew up in a time that was politically and socially shifting, but she always brings the story back to her own family. The title, for example, refers to the pattern on her parents’ wedding silverware; it appears to symbolize transition, and she uses it as a theme threaded throughout the narrative. Unfortunately, it’s a loose thread, and one that often feels like an afterthought. The most complex, humorous, and tense relationship is between Metcalf and her mother, who obsessed over appearances, which, in turn, encouraged Metcalf to rebel in numerous ways. But throughout their tug of war, Metcalf still loved her mother and her penchant for telling stories. The author’s style successfully captures her childlike innocence and wonder throughout. However, the sentences can be stilted at times, and the dialogue sometimes unnaturally provides background information (“I said, ‘Now that I know something about the rosary, tell me about confession’ ”). Some scenarios are surprising, but they’re sadly rushed, such as when the author describes experimenting with cutting herself with scissors as a 7-year-old. As the narrator, however, Metcalf is likable; amidst school suspensions, called-off engagements, and dropping out of college, she remains bright, inquisitive, and always up for the next adventure.

Pub Date: May 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5035-6976-8

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2015


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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