A textured remembrance of a traumatic childhood that also offers affecting moments of beauty.

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THE PART THAT BURNS

A MEMOIR

Ouellette entwines moments of personal pain with a lifelong awe of nature in this memoir.

The book opens with a fragment about the author’s mother, now in her late 60s, moving back home to Duluth, Minnesota, in search of “peace and quiet.” However, Ouellette’s formative years were anything but peaceful. In 1970, two years after she was born, her parents divorced, marking the beginning of an itinerant childhood. The family regularly moved, at one point relocating from Minnesota to Wyoming because of her mother’s new husband’s job. He had violent tendencies and played a “tickling game” with 4-year-old Ouellette, she says, which ended with his rubbing his hands between her legs. The author also describes childhood moments when she was “kicked out” of the family and made to live in the basement, with her mother pretending she was invisible. Other nonlinear fragments describe the author's forging a life for herself—navigating marriage, becoming a mother, and attending a sexual abuse support group. A key characteristic of Ouellette’s writing is her preoccupation with nature, as she calmly skips between accounts of her past and factual information about the natural world: “A tumbleweed is a plant known as a diaspore.” On occasion, these observations serve as distractions from personal pain; in other instances, they mirror the author’s emotional state: “you might also want to be a tumbleweed. Just look at them, lacy and weightless, rising and falling on rivers of air.” She juxtaposes these poetic moments with vivid, distressing passages, such as an account of Ouellette’s mother's hurling a frying pan at the author and yelling, “I should have aborted you when I had the chance.” The memoir also eloquently describes how the effects of abuse resonate into adulthood: “Scars don’t lose their feeling. They become more tender to the touch.” The presentation of the author’s life story as a series of fragments may strike some readers as idiosyncratic; however, this structure poignantly reflects a self-described “brokenness”: “you can tear a thing apart and tape it back together, and it will still be torn and whole.”

A textured remembrance of a traumatic childhood that also offers affecting moments of beauty.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Split Lip Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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