A French mother’s lyrical and haunting memoir of the deaths of her two young daughters and how she has coped with this terrible loss. In 1980 Jurgensen’s daughters, Mathilde (age 7) and Elise (age 4), were killed by a drunk driver. How does one live with the pain and grief of surviving one’s children? How does one express this loss and love in words? The Disappearance is Jurgensen’s unsentimental and candid response to these questions. In a series of letters to a friend written from 1991 to 1993, the author draws an intimate portrait of her life before and after her daughters’ deaths. The epistolary approach serves Jurgensen well, eliciting honest emotions and a lean lyricism. Slowly and sensitively she introduces us to the facts of the tragic accident. We learn about her own reaction to the girls’ deaths and how she managed to continue her life, and about her loving relationship with her husband, Laurent, which helps sustain her in times of deep depression and grief. Jurgensen’s pain is palpable and her book is at times too sad to read without setting it down. One of the most compelling aspects of Jurgensen’s story is how the two dead daughters have remained a presence in the family, even as the family grew with the addition of two subsequent children. From innocent questions about family size to her two younger children’s inquiries and formulations about their “older” siblings, Jurgensen candidly discusses her emotional and rational responses to both strangers and loved ones about her first two daughters. We celebrate with her when an old acquaintance who knew the girls comments when seeing the younger two: “they are so, so alike all four of them.” Jurgensen’s is a powerful voice for the unbearable sadness caused by death and the courage and love it takes to live with both the pain of loss and the cherished memories.

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-393-04776-8

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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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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