An offbeat and uplifting contribution to the literature of grief.

TWENTYONE OLIVE TREES

A MOTHER’S WALK THROUGH THE GRIEF OF SUICIDE TO HOPE AND HEALING

A San Francisco–based author confronts the pain of grief and loss following her son’s suicide in this debut collection of memoiristic fables, poetry, and letters.

“My son Blaise was my soul mate and my partner in crime on many adventures,” says Formentini in her introduction. She describes the unique bond the two shared and how they enjoyed world travel together, visiting Cambodia, Lapland, and other far-off locales. She also says that Blaise’s highly sensitive nature, combined with drug addiction, led him to suicide in 2019. In this book, Formentini examines the grief she’s experienced in the hope of finding peace. The collection’s title refers to the 21 olive trees that the author intends to plant—one for each year of her son’s life. The book also includes 21 letters and poems the author wrote to Blaise in the year following his death that describe her grieving process. Each letter is accompanied by a hopeful fable that explores human connection; for instance, “Camel and Spider” tells of two friends separated by desert wind. Formentini’s debut offers insightful, finely textured reflections on the dynamics of grief. Her early poetry is understandably raw and confrontational: “One thing that makes me so pissed off, / is you leaving me like this.” However, as the book progresses, this rage transforms into a sedate spiritual understanding: “That is where I Find You, / In that Light that Shines its Love, / and which has always been at the / Very Core of My Being.” The deeply personal poetry is counterbalanced by the fictional tales, which present broader, more universal truths. The author’s power to move readers is exemplified by the closing of “Camel and Spider” when Camel says, “You’re in the moon. You’re in every grain of sand. I can’t see anything without seeing you, Spider.” Cooper’s full-color illustrations add to the book’s unusual melding of genres. The end result is a tenderly philosophical study that offers hope and solace.

An offbeat and uplifting contribution to the literature of grief.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1955119061

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Kat Biggie Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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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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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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