A worthy but at times stilted portrait of the lasting effects of job losses on factory workers.

AMERICAN MADE

WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHEN WORK DISAPPEARS

A Pulitzer Prize winner’s first book tallies the social, emotional, and financial costs of a company’s decision to shut down an Indiana factory.

Stockman shows the shattering effects of globalization on the unskilled workers sometimes called “the precariat” for the precariousness of their jobs. In this immersive account, she follows three former employees of the Rexnord bearings plant in Indianapolis after the company’s 2016 announcement that it was moving its operations to Mexico and Texas. Each worker’s life was upended by the shutdown and, the author argues in mostly persuasive fashion, represents a larger cause. Shannon Mulcahy, one of the first female steelworkers at the plant, embodies the women’s movement; Wally Hall, a descendant of slaves, the struggle for civil rights; and John Feltner, a vice president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, organized labor. Stockman examines the steep price the workers paid for the closure, which included having to train their Mexican replacements in order to get a severance package. Behind their stories lay the stark realities of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has led to a loss of 700,000 U.S. factory jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and of Trump’s failed promise to bring jobs back. The author notes that her research altered her view of free trade: “Supporters of free trade say it generates enough wealth to compensate losers. But we don’t.” Throughout, Stockman “re-created” scenes in ways some readers may sometimes find confusing or cringeworthy, as when she writes that one woman had “skin the color of a freshly unwrapped Hershey’s kiss” and another “had silky skin the color of salted caramel gelato.” She appears to be trying to capture a subject’s point of view, but she doesn’t enclose them in quotation marks, and it’s hard to be sure whose thoughts they reflect. The stylistic awkwardness aside, this book gives a valuable account of the many things work means to Americans.

A worthy but at times stilted portrait of the lasting effects of job losses on factory workers.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984801-15-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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