Books

Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

“A Lucky Life Interrupted” by Tom Brokaw.
“A Lucky Life Interrupted” by Tom Brokaw.

Nonfiction

A Lucky Life Interrupted

Tom Brokaw, Random House, 230 pages

Tom Brokaw is an icon of American television.

So it’s not surprising that when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2013, Brokaw decided to keep it to himself. As he writes in his new memoir “A Lucky Life Interrupted,” he did not want to be defined by his disease. Now in remission, he is ready to share his experience.

Brokaw is a newsman, more comfortable with the whos, whats, wheres and whens than the hows and whys. Those looking for a window into an icon’s soul, or proof that death makes poets of us all, may be disappointed. “A Lucky Life Interrupted” is, instead, a fast-paced, no-nonsense chronicle of the events leading up to Brokaw’s diagnosis, his subsequent treatment and the shock of admitting the possibility of his own mortality.

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

Fiction

Almost Crimson

Dasha Kelly, Curbside Splendor, 280 pages

Dasha Kelly’s novel “Almost Crimson” kept bringing to mind what Aretha Franklin sang about a rose in black and Spanish Harlem: “It is a special one / It never sees the sun.”

Both conditions apply, figuratively, to Crimson (CeCe) Weathers. CeCe grows up not only poor and black but also as the only child of a mother with depression so paralyzing that her little girl has to make sure the bills are paid and their underwear is washed.

Just as other bright, lonely children have, CeCe finds comfort and joy in the library, particularly after she’s invited to become a school librarian’s assistant. But without a functional mother to serve as her role model, the normal passages of growing up and the challenges of navigating racism are even more difficult for CeCe.

In this coming-of-age story, Kelly intersperses moments of CeCe’s childhood with her present life as a young working adult. The powerful organizational skills she developed as a girl have served her well at the office, but not so much for adult emotional life.

Painfully, pointedly shy as she is, CeCe is unusually fortunate in the mentors and confidantes she attracts.

But CeCe is no plucky Disney child. She suffers and struggles. “Almost Crimson” is a story of hardship and suffering redeemed by emotional growth and love.

Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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