A far-reaching, animated, and thoroughly enjoyable account of a family’s roots.



An Indiana-based author traces his family history in this genealogical study.

The title of this work is drawn from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, which begins: “Consider the rock from which you were hewn.” Reynolds (The Harmonious Echo, 2015) cleverly proceeds to do just that by first introducing his ancestors, the Butlers, as they sit around the table for Christmas dinner in 1929. He draws a sketch of each family member, beginning with Edwin Butler, a “handsome man,” “an outdoorsman,” and “photographer.” Beside him is his wife, Clarice, a “ ‘lady,’ in the proper old sense of the word.” After establishing a sense of intimacy, the author delves into the past to find the origins of the Butler name, which has a predominantly British heritage. Reynolds finds that his ancestors fought with the Scottish warrior William Wallace and “were part of the pageantry” when King James I of England was crowned. The author’s family tree reveals a bounty of captivating individuals, from an indentured servant who was sent to America to John Butland, who changed his name to Butler to avoid being associated with a family of the same name with a bad reputation, and the intrepid Winnie Butler, whose travels took her to Alaska, Norway, Rome, and beyond. Reynolds embroiders his family’s story into the more expansive fabric of history beautifully at times. For example, when portraying the youthful Clarice, he describes the fashions of the age: “When Clarice Hawkins was a young girl, the beau ideal of a young woman was the Gibson Girl, the creation of pen-and-ink artist Charles Dana Gibson.” This startlingly detailed background information allows readers to consider all of the family members as distinct products of their eras. The passionately written and painstakingly researched book contains a wealth of intriguing information and is richly illustrated using family photographs, lithographs, maps, and pedigree charts. Reynolds’ study should be a source of great interest and inspiration to readers keen on investigating their ancestors’ histories.

A far-reaching, animated, and thoroughly enjoyable account of a family’s roots.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5370-5208-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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...


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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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