A fresh voice examining addiction and recovery through its sustaining relationships.

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A MEMOIR

A bleak yet affecting memoir about a teenage alcoholic’s experience in recovery-oriented halfway houses, focusing on bonds of desperate camaraderie.

In his debut, Macher, who served as a teaching-writing fellow at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, combines the personalized grandiosity of James Frey with the surreal perspective of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. In vibrant, choppy, and sometimes-repetitive prose, Macher chronicles how his youthful substance abuse was fueled by familial strife. Following tangled years of parental rejection, he writes, “I lacked something inside, and no accolade could replace it.” Despite being a promising athlete, he surrendered to blackout drinking: “For the first time in my life, I knew exactly who I was.” Following a car accident, Macher was sent to a series of recovery and group homes. “I’d become the worst kind of kid—fearless and empty—and there isn’t anything you can do about a boy like that but get out of the way,” he writes. Much of the impressionistic narrative occurs at “the House” in rural Louisiana, which was “a kind of extended-stay motel where practicing drunks go to die.” The author memorably depicts its grizzled inhabitants, including Jack Rehab, Bob Dirty, and Program, the terrifying ex-biker who counseled them, and he mordantly examines their attempts to stay straight in darkly funny sequences like a harrowing wilderness trek. The rituals of enforced recovery are emphasized, including scouring group therapy sessions and immersion in the rules and jargon signifying successful treatment or destructive backsliding. “From repetition,” writes Macher, “things began sinking in. I recall no epiphany. At some point, it just became clear.” The narrative becomes increasingly circular as he cleans up in pursuit of romance or the repair of fractured familial bonds and then returns to the House, where friendships simultaneously endured and fractured: “These men had become my family, but our work had just begun.” Throughout, the author displays original language and descriptions of the lonesome addict’s marginalized communities and warped perceptions.

A fresh voice examining addiction and recovery through its sustaining relationships.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1260-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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