A lightweight but heartening book.


A how-to guide to facing death and living life by the popular novelist and cancer survivor.

When Hoffman (The Dovekeepers, 2011, etc.) received the diagnosis about her lump, her immediate response was denial: “I was busy after all, the mother of two young sons, caring for my ill mother, involved in my writing. My most recent novel, Here on Earth, had been chosen as an Oprah Book Club Choice; an earlier novel, Practical Magic, was being filmed in California with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I didn’t have time to be ill.” Once she came to terms with the fact that disease doesn’t necessarily strike at our convenience, she was able to deal directly with her situation, put her life in perspective and get her priorities in order. She was one of the lucky ones—15 years later, she remains very much alive and productive, capable of writing the book that might have helped her when the shock of cancer blindsided her. “In many ways I wrote Survival Lessons for myself to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss,” she writes. Though Hoffman has earned renown as a talented writer, this isn’t really a writerly book, but more like conversational advice from a close friend. Most of the advice is common sense, yet the element of choice is crucial when faced with a fate that seems beyond your control. You can choose how to respond and put your crisis in perspective: “Good fortune and bad luck are always tied together with invisible, unbreakable thread.” Hoffman ends with words of wisdom from her oncologist, who advised that, “cancer didn’t have to be my entire novel. It was just a chapter.” In other words, this too shall pass.

A lightweight but heartening book.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61620-314-6

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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