Reviews by Georgia

 

Promise Me, Dad: a Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose

By: Joe Biden

Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler

Vice president Joe Biden would have seemed the likely candidate for the Democratic Party in the 2016 presidential election. He was next in line to a sitting president. But circumstances in his personal life diverted the intentions in the back of his mind.

Promise Me, Dad chronicles the journey Joe Biden took to arrive at the decision not to run for the highest office in the land. The book is not as much about political aspirations as it is the memoir of a father describing the emotions he felt during his son’s battle with cancer. That struggle affected his life, and those of many others, in ways he could not have imagined.

Joe’s eldest son, Beau was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, in August 2013. For almost two years, Beau fought for his life and was willing to try anything his doctors would suggest. No matter the side effects or discomfort, his line was always, “All good.” He held onto hope for himself and the entire family. Traveling between his home in Delaware and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas took a toll on them all. Joe did his best to be with his son, but also felt responsibilities to his country with a job to do.

The United States government had military decisions to make in the Middle East regarding ISIL. There were decisions to be made concerning Beau’s treatments. Midway through the book is a chapter titled Calculated Risk. I believe that spoke for both Joe’s and Beau’s decisions at the time.

A presidential run was talked about among the family before Beau’s diagnosis. It was almost a given. But illness changes things. Although he fought valiantly, on May 30, 2015, at the age of 46, Beau died. After his death, the pressure on Joe to run came from outside. Former colleagues urged him to jump into the race. George Clooney offered support and help in fundraising. Although he did not immediately dismiss the idea, Joe knew the strains of a national campaign.

And he was no stranger to tragedy. In December 1972, as a thirty-year-old newly elected United States senator, his wife and daughter were killed in a traffic accident. His two sons spent weeks in the hospital and eventually recovered from their injuries. The pain was unbearable in the beginning and it took a long time to heal. But he survived and in 1977 married his second wife, Jill. This past experience may have weighed into the decision. He knew what it would take to get through the dark days to come. Could he be at his best while still grieving?

The back cover of Promise Me, Dad is a photograph. Beau is a little boy, walking down a path, turned around with his hand raised. The gesture could be, “No you can’t follow me.” Or he could be waving goodbye. Either way, it tugged at my heart. The book is touching to the very end.

Promise Me, Dad can be found with the non-fiction books in the library; 920 BID.

April 2018

 

 

Origin

By: Dan Brown

Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler

Harvard professor Robert Langdon is invited to an event at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain for the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” Billionaire inventor and futuristic atheist Edmond Kirsch promises to answer two of life’s most important questions: “Where did we come from?” and “Where are we going?” Kirsch was a student of Langdon’s twenty years ago and the two have kept in contact. The presentation is being broadcast worldwide. Shortly after it begins, things take a deadly turn as Kirsch is shot dead while speaking. Ambra Vidal, museum director and fiancé of Spain’s Prince Julian, flees with Langdon. The two find themselves in a race to discover the password to the presentation, which can be accessed through Kirsch’s phone.

The recent deaths of Rabbi Yehunda Koves, a prominent Jewish philosopher and Syed al-Fadi, an Islamic scholar, are believed to be connected to that of Kirsch. He met with both men and Roman Catholic Bishop Antonio Valdespino a few days earlier, explaining his discovery and the plan to release it to the public. The news horrified the religious men, prompting Bishop Valdespino to send Kirsch a somewhat threatening email. Now three of the four are dead. The fact that the bishop is a close friend and advisor to the King of Spain complicates the matter.  If the code is unlocked and the discovery revealed to the world, those wanting to keep the information silenced may retreat from the attacks. This could remove Langdon and Vidal from their immediate danger.

Kirsch’s assassin is revealed early in the book as Admiral Luis Avila, an ex-Spanish naval officer. Avila recently joined the Palmarian Catholic Church after members of the group convinced him followers of Kirsch and his atheist views were responsible for the death of his family in a church bombing. Avila takes his orders from someone referred to as the Regent. Troubling Vidal is the knowledge that Avila was a last minute addition to the event’s guest list at the request of a call from the Royal Palace.

With the help of Winston, an artificial intelligence created by Kirsch, Professor Langdon and Vidal travel to Kirsch’s home and finally to the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. Time is ticking as Winston reveals that per Kirsch’s order, he will self-destruct the next afternoon. Without his assistance they will not be able to release the presentation even if they have the 47-character password.

As in previous novels, Brown includes background information on components that are integral to the story, giving the reader familiarity with the history and details of the subject matter. This combines with an intricate storyline making for an enjoyable and compelling read.

Origin is available in the mystery, large print, and audio book sections of the library.

March 2018