Hats off to Arthur Vanderbilt II for combing through the family archive and putting this rich history down in one, cohesive place – it must have been fantastically challenging.
The book starts off with the life story of the family patriarch, Cornelius, who single-handedly built his empire. He dropped out of school at 11 and at 16, with a $100 loan from his mother, he bought his first boat. He outwitted, out worked and intimidated his competition. He was a domineering and sadistic father of 13. He disowned his daughters who married (and no longer carried the family name) and berated his sons relentlessly.
The story continues by developing the history and life of each of the most prominent family members: the rivalry to be crowned THE Mrs. Vanderbilt, the races to win the inheritance by each succeeding generation. Some family members were shrewd and had significant inheritances to pass on, while others spent money with gross frivolity, bankrupting some branches of this wild tree.
Even with ALL of these unique and very different characters, the story is told coherently. It is not difficult to follow and figure out how each person is related, as Vanderbilt lays out this story logically, generation to generation.
I found the story of Gloria Vanderbilt's childhood so fascinating, I purchased her autobiography to get her side of her story. She was fiercely manipulated as a child. Her alcoholic, gambling, reckless father was dead before she was two, leaving her with a social-climbing 20 year old mother who was manipulated by the Vanderbilts (specifically Gertrude) to gain control Gloria and her trust. It is unclear if it was truly in Gloria’s best interest, which is why I want to dive further into this subject.
This is a great book - a thorough history of a very important part of America’s Gilded Age.
This wonderful son (and author), Jon Keehner, went to the ends of the earth to piece together the story of the tragedy that took his mother's beloved husband from all of them... and for that alone, I commend him. What a tremendous gift this is, not only for his mom Karen, but for the public, who need to know these stories: the senseless murders of Rich Duncan, Newton Thomas and horrifying attack on James Kiltie.
The author prefaces his story by identifying that he did not interview (scumbag/enabler) Philip and Sharon Hillman in order to write this account, so that was perched in the back of my mind. When Keehner wrote about very detailed conversations, as the first person, I kept reminding myself that these were essentially fictional recounts. Still, I know why he did it and it greatly lends to the completeness of this work.
Phil Hillman is a poor excuse for a human. He murders people for zero reason. Then he uses his experiences in Vietnam (it is questionable how involved, even if involved, he was in combat) his alcoholism and his less-than-warm parents as excuses as to why he cannot control himself. He went through the system and got off with a pittance of a sentence for his first murder and assault charge, so he was barely concerned when he came across Rich Duncan.
As for Sharon Hillman’s part and (Hillman’s sister) Jody’s part… they should have been held culpable as well. They stood by and watched someone who had zero control continue to drink excessively, exhibit irrational behavior and all they did was placate him. Let him have guns, gave him alcohol and they were the idiots put in place by Hillman’s probation officer to ‘keep him in check’. Brilliant. Hope they’re having fun living with that reality.
Keehner did a fine job. I hope he and his family are thriving and keeping Rich’s spirit alive. Here is a cautionary tale that simply being helpful to others can cost you your life. Very tragic.
Amanda Lindhout is clearly an intelligent, resourceful, ambitious and beautiful young woman who like most of us, suffered from youthful invincibility… only her version took her to dangerous regions of Afghanistan and then Somalia. She was prodding a dangerous beast and eventually she was eaten by it, but fortunately, she lived to tell about it.
Amanda’s writing and narration brings you as close as you’ll ever want to be - into her world of being held captive, abused, starved and worse… in a place with no refuge, no escape and no hope. She kept fairly positive initially, extremely inventive in her techniques to communicate with her fellow captive (Nigel), but day by day, her captors stripped away every ounce of her dignity and strength.
It is a harrowing tale, hard to encapsulate, but she did it winningly. The detail is incredible; I felt her aching and starving to the point I had to fast forward to ease MY pain! This is a consuming book that left me in my car, in my garage for ridiculous amounts of time until I was willing to pause the story, knowing it would be at least another night’s sleep until I could resume.
Wow, Amanda… you’re really amazing. Hope the film version does your book justice. I think Ronney Mara is a casting coup.
I agree with the other reviewers – this book was excellent and kept me interested for all 20+ hours of it. I’m pretty sure I have the genius Larry Sloman to thank for that. This rollercoaster life story is spilled out too cohesively and thoroughly for a first time author, even if it is Tyson’s life… he couldn’t have pulled this off with just anyone. I did roll my eyes enough to make myself dizzy at all of the self-induced chaos Tyson can’t keep away from… he is truly a moth to a flame, no matter how many times he gets metaphorically and literally punched, he keeps going back for more.
The insanity surrounding the massive quantity of women, money and drugs is almost incomprehensible. If you look in the dictionary I bet there is a picture of Tyson under EXCESS and GLUTTONY. Without his rudder, Cus D’Amato, Tyson intentionally rowed into storms without any hesitation – he spent most of his life trying to die.
Hang on and enjoy the ride.
Phew... where to start!?
I’m sure it happened before I read this book, but I have officially had my fill of Tori & Dean. This will be the only $$ I ever put in their pockets and the last time I will invest any of my time in them. The one-two punch of this book, combined with True Tori left me feeling used and stupid.
My positive takeaway:
I appreciate Tori’s narration, writing and storytelling – she is gifted.
On to the rest:
Tori reveals herself as someone who is willing to sell her and her family’s souls to earn another dollar… so she can buy another animal to add to her hoard, lose millions on impulsive real estate purchases and failed retail endeavors. I guess it is disturbing for a conservative person who has worked hard all of her life (me) to listen to Tori whine about not having exactly what she wants, when she wants it (ultimately she’ll manipulate until she gets it). Tori needs extensive therapy for her unyielding impulsivity and abandonment issues (likely thanks to her emotionally detached mother and the loss of her doting father). Dean needs to: a) grow a backbone and explain to his wife that she is single-handedly jeopardizing her entire family’s financial & psychological future, b) stop impregnating her and c) end his extracurricular activities.
I can’t help but consider some or all of this book’s contents were manufactured for another money-grab. Tori goes into great lengths to explain how she ‘creates’ storylines for her “reality” shows and her intricate staging. In the event there is a real life scenario that she wishes was filmed, she’ll recreate it as soon as she can get the cameras back. There is truly NOTHING sacred.
I’m going to take a shower.
Darn, someone beat me to the title to my review.
Bob does a swell job narrating, which receives the most praise in my review. I should mention, I know the Bob Saget of Comedy Central Roasts, stand-up and Howard Stern appearances. I know he was on Full House and AFV, but only by accidentally glancing across the shows during channel surfing. I went into this book, based on the title, looking for something tell-all-ish, something gutsy, maybe even a little wild, my hopes were dashed. It just isn't in here.
Bob and his family knows tragedy, no doubt. He loves his family and that is nice. He is a good father. Kudos. But, other than that, this book has little substance. He builds up these wild stories, on and on, creating the fantasy of a huge payoff and each time the story goes limp (nod to Bob and his love of male anatomy and flatulence jokes). Who else tells a story about going to pick up Rodney Dangerfield for a steak dinner only to learn he's been stood up in favor of Ron Jeremy and some hookers... and he leaves. What's the point of the story?! It all felt like a tease.
Oh, Bob, this book should have been titled much differently. Pffft.
I was haunted during and after listening to this book about Susan Powell's (obvious) murder and the inexplicable inability for authorities to find her remains. The whole Powell family, excepting sister Jennifer, should be imprisoned simply for not divulging the truth about Susan's murder and/or for supporting their weak, manipulative, pathetic brother/son, Josh.
The narration was great. Initially, the woman's voice at the beginning of each chapter was off-putting and chilling - she sounded mechanical (computerized) as she read excerpts from Susan's emails, diary and letters. It eventually it made perfect sense and lent itself to this profoundly disturbing story.
This case deserved FBI attention or at least a more through, condensed investigation. The local officials seemed to drag their feet and relied on silly methods to try to trick Josh... the investigation wore on for years. They never put the REAL heat on this guy. Also, child/family services, while respecting that Josh was never formally charged with the murder of his children's mother, should have been monitoring Josh more closely. Supervised visitation with his children should have been held in a controlled environment - not Josh's home. Also, he played ridiculous games with Susan's parents. As if they hadn't suffered enough, he dangled their grandchildren and then ripped them away from them for no reason other than to be a complete jack*ss. I know this is a touchy for local/state authorities, because technically a person is innocent until proven guilty, but surely a case including a missing, presumed dead mother, whose husband is the prime suspect, deserves to be handled more delicately than most. These poor children are dead because a) their father was a maniac, b) social services were too timid (forced by policy, procedure) and c) police were too slow in putting together the pieces of the crime and focused too heavily on the lack of a body. Susan was a moral, upright, hard-working person and devoted mother - her disappearance should have been treated with alarms from day one.
I ended the book with feelings of complete and utter frustration. I cannot believe how this played out. I cannot believe how Josh (who seemed less than intelligent) pulled this off. I can't believe how much the Cox family has suffered. If Josh Powell didn't kill himself, I'd have to refrain from getting on a plane to Puyallup myself. Josh Powell and most of his kin are cowards and villains, mostly thanks to their disturbed/dysfunctional patriarch. What a complete waste and total shame. RIP Susan, Charlie & Braden.
It is hard to be critical about a book that contains such lurid, horrific details about one of the most depraved situations ever experienced by a human being, which so happens to be written by the victim. But, when you agree to tell your story and sell it to me, I feel I have the right to be honest about its content.
It is with respect that I say there is no doubt Michelle Knight survived the one of the most unthinkable, unimaginable and tragic scenarios... from her childhood, until May 6, 2013 and presently with the ghosts that haunt her as a result.
My criticism are the holes in her story. It gets fuzzy in a lot of places, but maybe she just isn't comfortable with the harsh reality or has blocked out a lot due to trauma. She glazes over her relationships, with family, friends and even her co-kidnappees - there is realness and definition missing. She doesn't take any responsibility (of course I'm not referring to her being kidnapped or victimized by relatives), for the bad situations and people she put herself around. She did not do what it took to work, to care for her child and chose horrible means to earn money. On the day she was abducted, she was aimlessly walking around trying to get to a court-ordered visitation. It is all cloudy. Why is there an obvious rift between her and the other girls? Why didn't her family look for her? Why is her relationship with her family so distorted now? I'm sure there are perfectly good reasons, but the reader will not learn anything about this.
So, again, much respect to you Michelle for surviving what you did. Maybe you needed to let this rest for a bit before you wrote about it. I think there is a lot more to your story.
This book is exceptionally written. I decided to buy it because I loved Julia's book Jesus Land. The staggeringly confounding story of Jonestown needed someone like Julia - her exhaustive attention detail and ability to create imagery with words. She combed through insurmountable records and interviewed people involved to wholly retell this haunting story. It is impeccably told, perfectly narrated and extremely overwhelming. Jim Jones was a diabolical maniac that somehow convinced his followers of imaginary conspiracies, manipulated their beliefs, chopped away at their confidence and turned them into fearful sheep... he trapped them and they felt there was no where to turn. I still cannot believe this actually happened. People need to hear this story and this is the perfect place to learn. I will remember Hyacinth Thrash and her unyielding determination for the rest of my life. Amazing job, Julia Scheeres!
THIS BOOK IS HYSTERICAL. Ophira wrote this book with her obvious intelligence, snappy delivery and unapologetic candor... all of which combined make this great book probably the best book I'll hear in 2014. [Considering I have 112 titles in my online library, I feel very qualified to say this.] Oh, and I'm only 2/3rd done. As the title would suggest, it is slightly provocative, but that only adds to its complete awesomeness. If you're a woman, you will (unless you live under a rock) relate. If you're a dude, you'll enjoy Ophira's exploits and masculine approaches to dealing with/understanding men. Deep down she was always a girl looking for love, but thankfully (because it gave her material for this book) it was in all the wrong places. In the end, kissing a lot of frogs will eventually net you a prince. Thanks, Ophira!
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