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Memoir / Autobiography

  • Cotton Teeth

    by Glenn Rockowitz

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: What if a father wished aloud that he could have cancer in his ailing son's place. . .and it happened? In Cotton Teeth, Glenn Rockowitz describes the agonizing year when he fought for his own life while struggling to sustain his father as they both battled cancer.

    Prose: Glenn Rockowitz spares his readers nothing; Cotton Teeth vividly brings the physical, spiritual and emotional rollercoaster suffered by his father and himself to life on the page. The prose is gritty and haunting.

    Originality: To undergo a battle for one's own life while trying to support a parent who is simultaneously going through the same illness is a situation that, thankfully, not many will find themselves in. Interwoven with the struggle of father and son to survive are the author's harrowing flashbacks of being molested at summer camp at a young age.

    Character Development/Execution: Sometimes heroism is simply the act of survival. Rockowitz has fought hard to survive - not only cancer, but childhood sexual abuse - and the result is a harrowing memoir that will stay with its readers long past the final page.

     

  • Idea: Dylan builds the narrative of his wife's struggle with mental health to encompass family, friends, and strangers as well as the society that continues to place a stigma around mental health.

    Prose/Style: Palpable in Dylan's writing are the feelings of confusion, despair, love, and hope as he goes back and forth in time to show life before and after he notices a change in Mia.

    Originality: In the vast world of literature that deals with mental health struggles, Dylan carves out a space for himself, his wife, and his family to reflect upon their journey in a meaningful way.

    Character Development/Execution: Dylan includes a broad array of medical professionals, family members, and friends in the narrative. While these characters aren't always given the space they may deserve, Dylan's attempts to share their perspectives is a noble effort. 

    Blurb: With a tremendous amount of care, Dylan shares his experience as a husband and father in a family that must navigate the complex world of mental health. A moving and informative memoir, Safe, Wanted, and Loved reminds readers of the challenges faced by those struggling with their mental health and the stigma placed on that struggle. 

    Blurb: With a tremendous amount of care, Dylan shares his experience as a husband and father in a family that must navigate the complex world of mental health. A moving and informative memoir, Safe, Wanted, and Loved reminds readers of the challenges faced by those struggling with their mental health and the stigma placed on that struggle. 

  • Plot/Idea: Fallon presents an extremely thorough and finely written historical memoir—filling in gaps of a possible relative's life and establishing part of a genealogy. It may mostly appeal to scholarly readers, those interested in Chateaubriand or buffs of French history.

    Prose: The prose is excellent, well-organized, and well-cited. It is quite scholarly in tone, however, and may not appeal to more casual readers. Photographs, paintings, letters, and diary entries enhance the text.

    Originality: This work is highly original in concept and execution, as the purpose is to establish genealogical ties between the author and Chateaubriand. Although the author gathers material from established sources, he also integrates quite a bit of original material through his years of research.

    Character Development/Execution: The character of Chateaubriand is quite clear, established by interviews, articles, biographies, letters and photographs.

  • Australian Women Can Walk

    by Veronica Caven Aldous

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: Australian Women Can Walk is a smart memoir about one woman's formative college gap year travels in 1979. Traveling with art school friends, author Aldous crosses Asia, hanging out on houseboats, backpacking, and learning about life along the way.

    Prose: Aldous's prose is simple and straightforward, yet self-assured. While her lines are sometimes awkwardly written and the text has a few tense issues, overall the writing is strong and appealing.

    Originality: While there are similar memoirs about traveling in other countries, Aldous's discussion of politics, like the impact of partition and the way she connects her reading with her experience, sets this book apart. The diary format also enhances the original quality of the work.

    Character Development/Execution: Author Veronica Caven Aldous has a wonderful eye for sense and place descriptions across the execution of the text. The memoir's short sections lend themselves well to the slice-of-life style of Aldous's journey, and the photographs also enhance the story well.

    Blurb: A wonderfully executed memoir about a young woman's travels and adventures in Asia as a 22-year-old art student, Australian Women Can Walk nails the experience of youthful discovery on the page.

  • The Bond - Second Edition

    by A.M. Grotticelli

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot/Idea:  Grotticelli delivers a moving account of a tumultuous childhood spent between a violent family, orphanage, and unloving foster care, and the powerful bonds formed between found siblings.

    Prose: The author's language is plainspoken and vivid, with a clear and immediate prose style that will particularly appeal to readers who have similarly struggled to find security and family connection amidst upheaval and uncertainty.

    Originality: This story successfully explores the nuances of an atypical story of an unhappy childhood.

    Character Development/Execution: The author's often painful memoir is well-told, though the work may benefit from broader variety in terms of tone.

  • The Battle of Buffalo Wallow

    by James R Odrowski

    Rating: 7.00

    Idea: In The Battle of Buffalo Wallow, James Odrowski weaves tales of his father's experiences in the Pacific Theater during World War II into a broader historical narrative of the events preceding the titular battle. Part memoir, part historical text, the book leads up to and highlights one of the lesser-known battles in the WW II PTO.

    Prose: Odrowski writes a vivid and well-researched historical narrative in The Battle of Buffalo Wallow. Dialogue and quotations are authentic to the World War II period and contain pejorative terms for the enemy.

    Originality: Preserving history by recording the oral recollections of those who lived through times of war and crisis is an important task for historians of any era. Odrowski has written a valuable contribution to the archives of the Second World War.

    Character/Execution: The author's deep affection, gratitude, and respect for his father and for his service in the Second World War permeate every page of The Battle of Buffalo Wallow. Odrowski’s research into the military campaigns and the overall conditions of the settings of the time and place of which he writes has been painstaking and serious.

  • Like Two Saplings: A Memoir

    by Margery al Chalabi

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot/Idea: A moving memoir that follows a relationship across time and space, highs and lows, and health and sickness, Like Two Saplings will make readers feel like they personally knew Margery and Suhail al Chalabi.

    Prose: This memoir is written in a digestible style, although the number of letters and emails included in the text, while interesting, can occasionally overwhelm the narrative.

    Originality: Al Chalabi pens a memoir that provides space to celebrate the life of her late husband and their life together.

    Character Development/Execution: Throughout the book, readers are provided with a deepening sense of the personalities of Margery and Suhail, as well as their shared relationship.

  • Plot/Idea: This alluring memoir chronicles the experiences of 19 explorers who have conquered high peaks, caves, river voyages, and much more. Several maps and a list of terms prove most useful to readers.

    Prose: Tagliapietra's prose is vivid and evocative. The short sections effectively capture both a sense of the locations being explored, as well as the potential danger faced by the individual subjects. 

    Originality: While the presentation and format is not entirely novel, readers will likely be unfamiliar with a number of the adventurers Tagliapietra features. 

    Character Development/Execution: As the individual passages are brief, readers will not gain an in-depth perspective on the subjects, but this work serves as a engaging resource for casual reading, and offers inspiration for readers seeking adventure themselves.

  • The Darkness Within Drew Paige

    by Drew Paige

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: Paige's story sheds a light on the intensely personal and often isolating journey of coming to terms with one's mental illness. It is this journey that makes the story of her career in social work all the more powerful and interesting to read.

    Prose: The Darkness Within Drew Paige is written like a journal, in that there is much telling, and there could be more showing. Attention to the details surrounding a person or event, rather than a statement of the thing itself, would greatly improve the reader's experience.

    Originality: This decade-spanning memoir illustrates the myriad ways mental illness can impact one’s day-to-day life. The descriptions of family trauma are heart-wrenching, and some of the most powerful points in the work.

    Character Development/Execution: Paige has a deep understanding of how her struggle with Bipolar II Disorder affects her interactions with others, and she is able to see herself in others who struggle with their mental health. However, Paige tends to speak in absolutes, viewing people as either inherently bad or good, and at times she struggles to find the nuance in others’ psyches.

  • Heaven Is a Long Way to Go

    by Joe Willey

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: This faith-based memoir remains hopeful even in the face of immense hardships. Crossing multiple generations, the individuals portrayed here remain steadfast as Seventh-Day Adventists, rarely faltering in the face of adversity.

    Prose: The words have a steady flow throughout and the occasional dialogue breathes life into the characters involved in the story. Details and imagery add color and life to the narrative, and the author uses well-chosen words, making the story feel like a true memoir instead of a timeline.

    Originality: Whether the reader is a devout Seventh-Day Adventist or not, there is plenty to learn about this Christian faith as the text is well-executed. The author strikes an effective balance between daily life and a strong faith.

    Character Development/Execution: The author is knowledgeable and well-versed in his subject. Black-and-white photos scattered throughout the text expose more about this family and their experiences. The table of contents serves as an outline for the reader, followed by a necessary postscript from the author’s wife.

  • Creatures of Habit: A User's Guide to Recovery

    by Shane Liston

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot/Idea: Creatures of Habit: A User's Guide to Recovery is a hard-hitting memoir of a drug addict who has recovered and who aims to pass on what he has learned to assist other addicts along their journeys.

    Prose: The prose is lively, but suffers from cliched descriptions and overwrought expressions.

    Originality: The first half of this work is a more free-flowing narration of the author's experiences of the prison of addiction. The second half draws heavily on the twelve-step program and Christian spirituality to uplift individuals who are seeking a way out of their own addictions. While not entirely novel, Creatures of Habit will likely speak to readers desiring to move forward free of drugs and alcohol.

    Character Development/Execution: The author writes poignantly and honestly about his struggles. Additional characters are somewhat lacking in their development and can often come across as sketches rather than fully realized individuals. 

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