An unforgettable account of one woman’s voyage after an unimaginable loss.


A debut memoirist shares the devastating loss of her three children and her journey of healing and forgiveness.

The first time she met John Ritzert, the author thought he was “weird.” But she ignored her first impression and they began dating. Eventually, they married and had two children—Jarod William and Brandi Marie—and Ritzert adopted James’ son from a previous marriage, Sean Michael Tilk. For a while, they were happy, but Ritzert often worked out of town as a bricklayer. As they grew apart, he refused counseling, and when his behavior began to deteriorate, James insisted on a divorce. At first, the split was amicable. She dismissed his occasionally erratic actions, but as he became more emotional and violent, she started to fear him. Early one July morning, on a day he was scheduled to pick up the children for the weekend, James woke to the sound of shattered glass. Ritzert had broken in, brandishing a shotgun and a sinister expression (“He was not on drugs or alcohol. He was full of evil. It was in his eyes”). She watched in horror as he shot their youngest child, Brandi. Discovering the phone lines had been cut, James ran to a neighbor’s house to call for help. By the time the local police, unaccustomed to dealing with SWAT situations, entered her home, Ritzert had killed all three children and himself. With the help of family, friends, and counseling, James survived the next few years, producing this memoir as part of her healing process. She then put it away, publishing it nearly two decades after her children’s deaths. Despite the painful subject, the book is engrossing, seeming more like a suspense novel than a memoir. Knowing the deadly outcome—which the author discloses in the preface—fails to make the incident any less shocking. James writes well, with her surprising ability to forgive Ritzert coming through in her lack of bitterness or self-recrimination. She glosses over some parts of the tale, such as Sean’s relationship with his biological father and his reaction to his son’s murder. While it’s not the focus of the work, the insider view of how the media intrude in times of tragedy is one of the author’s most poignant revelations. Despite the inherent sadness of the story, James manages to imbue it with hope.

An unforgettable account of one woman’s voyage after an unimaginable loss.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5043-7365-4

Page Count: 248

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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