A welcome debut that will leave readers eager for a successor—and soon.



Intensely candid debut memoir by illustrator and writer Kimball.

“The Secret,” the opening act of the book, pairs a charming illustrative style, marked by bold-line geometries and little handwritten pointers (“Essential sandwich ingredients,” “Weird, secret storage room”), with a startling first sentence: “My mom was thirty-one when she decided to take her own life.” That desperate act sets in motion the collapse of a seemingly ordinary family—though, of course, no family is truly ordinary. Of course, the suicide attempt, born of unsuccessfully managed bipolar disorder, clouded the lives of Kimball and her siblings, who were very young when it occurred. In adulthood, the author has tried to puzzle out events. “What I wanted,” she writes, “is to clear away the muck: to point to a date on a calendar and say this led to that; to watch a video and deconstruct the moments that led to our family’s collapse and its aftermath.” That aftermath included institutionalization, disintegration, and recrimination. As Kimball writes, her sensitivity finely attuned, it took her time to realize that exploring her mother’s psyche would force her still-living mother to “scratch at a wound that’s probably been open since childhood.” Just as sensitively, the author examines the effects of divorce on uncomprehending children and, more damagingly, the endless psychological battles surrounding custody. In the blended household in which she landed, her new family soon “began to splinter along biological lines,” with blood siblings forming alliances in what would become a long cold war. Kimball is never shy to point the finger at herself, recognizing her anger that her mother’s illness forced her to witness “the fact that she transformed from parent to stranger.” The drama grows with the emerging recognition that her mother is not the only member of the family to suffer from mental illness. It’s an extraordinarily honest look at life behind closed suburban doors—and with a sublimely redemptive conclusion.

A welcome debut that will leave readers eager for a successor—and soon.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300744-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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

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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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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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