THE ORCHARD

A MEMOIR

A foreboding memoir of the author’s early marriage into an agricultural family, and her emotional navigation between rootlessness and heritage.

In a key passage, novelist Weir (as Anne Frasier: Garden of Darkness, 2007, etc.) writes that “in that moment I understood that I’d stepped into a world I could never be a part of.” How could a citified woman, whose mother struggled with revolving-door relationships and an itinerant lifestyle, forge an enduring bond with a man whose apple-farming family was governed by appearances? The author dances around questions of belonging and trust as she compresses her outsider beginnings on her husband’s land with the years preceding his death, all while alternating between memories of a 1960s childhood. Threaded with abandonments and “[v]ery bad things that I will never talk about,” the jagged pastiche reveals a woman whose impetuous decision to marry a man she barely knew led to love, children and the tough realization that generations of pesticide-spraying would destroy her newly reconciled peace. Weir ably captures the stasis of rural life and the pain of difference with acuity, though the impact is diluted when in-laws and other characters emerge as archetypal rather than fully fleshed figures. The author frankly admits to deeply subjective interpretation, however, acknowledging that “[s]ometimes there are people you must forget because of the damage they cause—blood ties or not.” Recurrent hints of environmentally dangerous activity never quite develop into a parallel theme, remaining instead as touchstones for a narrative that reaches a crescendo with cancer diagnosis. The strongest feature of the book is the determined loyalty that allows Weir to discover beauty amid strife, as well as the touching conclusion. 

 

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-446-58469-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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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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