An often affecting but sometimes-unconvincing recollection.

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FROM HEALING TO HELL

Debut author Wall recounts his father’s struggle with drug addiction and blames the CIA’s MKUltra program for his parent’s later mental illness.

Wall writes that he always idolized his father, Henry. Until the author was 16, the two were nearly inseparable; he would even accompany his physician dad on his rounds. The author’s admiration was understandable, as his father was impressively accomplished. Although it took him seven years to finish medical school, he established a successful practice, eventually founded a hospital, and served as a Georgia state senator in the mid-1940s. Before his election, Henry moved his family to Blakely, a town in southern Georgia; unlike many citizens there, Henry was a progressive Southerner who insisted on treating everyone, of all races, with respect. However, in the 1950s, his life spiraled into a tailspin after he became addicted to Demerol, a prescribed painkiller that he took to ease the chronic periodontitis in his gums and ulcer in his shin. Wall writes that his father desperately tried to hide his addiction but it soon became impossible—especially given his mounting financial troubles. His hospital eventually shut down and he was arrested, tried, and convicted for “obtaining narcotics by means of fictitious prescriptions.” He was sent to a prison hospital for rehabilitation, but after he was released, the author says, he was erratic, paranoid, and prone to delusions. Wall mounts a dual defense of his father, arguing that his trial was rigged by political adversaries and jealous doctors in the community, and that his parent’s mental deterioration was the result of experiments conducted on him in the prison hospital under the auspices of the infamous CIA program MKUltra. The author’s remembrance is a moving tribute to his father, and although he does express some bitterness, it’s always laced with loving tenderness. However, his expressions of admiration sometimes border on idolatry, which seems to affect some of his assessments. He presents a case that his father was a victim of experimentation with much greater confidence than the circumstantial evidence warrants, and he credulously accepts questionable assertions, such as Henry’s notion that his mail was being monitored by the government.

An often affecting but sometimes-unconvincing recollection.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5462-6857-4

Page Count: 194

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2019

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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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