Wilderness stories that will leave you agape and agog.




Western novelist Blevins (Ravenshadow, 1999, etc.) spins robust, theatrical and mostly true tales of early-19th-century American mountain men.

He comes at the stories with gusto, dramatizing to a certain extent these frontiersmen’s fantastic experiences, from the exploits of John Colter in 1808 to Kit Carson’s legendary work as John C. Fremont’s scout during the 1840s. Along the upper Missouri River, Colter ran afoul of some Blackfeet Indians, who stripped him of his clothes and told him to run. Stark naked, with nothing but his hands to gather food, he managed to make his way hundreds of miles to Fort Lisa on the Yellowstone. Blevins follows up that opening chapter with the equally mind-boggling saga of Hugh Glass, torn to shreds by a grizzly bear and left in the hands of two reluctant young caregivers who were annoyed when he didn’t die quickly. After they abandoned him, taking his rifle and supplies, he crawled and stumbled for 250 miles to Fort Kiowa. Blevins colorfully profiles several other hardy adventurers, including hardcore wanderer Jedediah Smith—men for whom it was natural when departing each other’s company to talk of a rendezvous two years down the line. Yet he dismisses the notion that they were vagabonding reprobates, pointing to their varied business interests. The author also unsnarls the competing agendas of the various fur-collecting agencies and ponders the sexual mores of natives and trappers. Most gratifyingly, he evokes the glories of the mountain men’s geography: the natural wonders they described from the Missouri River to the Sierra Nevada to the sere Southwest.

Wilderness stories that will leave you agape and agog.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-765-31435-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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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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