Biography and Memoir Reviews: Hetty Green and Andrew McCarthy

Unsure what new book to read next? Sit back: We read the book reviews in case you missed them. Below are the collected reviews of two new books being discussed in leading journals and magazines. Today we look at "The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age" by Janet Wallach and "The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down" by Andrew McCarthy.

"The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age" by Janet Wallach

With a steely determination forged by an emotionally unsatisfactory upbringing, Hetty Green became a star of America’s Gilded Age by amassing a fortune estimated at $100 million at time when economic strife was gripping the country. A stunning example of early twentieth century female empowerment, Green’s life has always been an awe-inspiring and entertaining nugget for cultural historians, and on this score Janet Wallach’s new biography has appealed to the critics, with Publishers Weekly noting that “Wallach’s enjoyable account encourages admiration for Green’s cheekiness in face of straitlaced bankers” and notes that “the author successfully portrays a compelling woman.” Sherryl Connelly of New York Daily News says, “It is always fun to return to the story of Green,” and, after recounting Green’s notoriety for frugality and her a stern attitude when it came to her money, acknowledges that “Wallach presents Green’s charitable self, a woman who could be wise and witty, warm as well. And generous, too.” Kirkus Reviews is similarly pleased with this new account, concluding its review with, “The dearth of diaries and personal correspondence available to the author has not prevented her from writing a thoroughly enjoyable biography.”

Bio-Metric: 4/5

"The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down" by Andrew McCarthy

Actor and travel writer Andrew McCarthy has had an incredible trajectory from Brat Packer (St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink) to backpacker (he's now an award-winning writer for National Geographic, Afar, and others). In the midst of an epic interior struggle with whether he wants to enter a second marriage with his longtime girlfriend, McCarthy charts a course of self-discovery through the forests of Coast Rica and along the Amazon River, leaving critics decidedly split on this personal retelling of events, which has been compared to Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love. Cheryl Strayed, writing in The New York Times, says, “This isn’t a brash, boorish, 'don’t go loving me babe because the road’s my middle name' memoir of masculine bravado. It’s a good book about a good man who’s trying good and hard to figure himself out.” Her sympathies are echoed by a widely republished review, which notes that “As the book progresses, he's no longer quite the loner that he used to be. Readers will enjoy taking this journey with McCarthy, and may be tempted to plan some soul-searching travel of their own.”’s Jessica Pressler, though giving McCarthy points for his “observational skills”, is peeved with his subject matter, declaring, “…a story about a man-child who feels trapped and underappreciated by his family and just wants five minutes to himself is joyless and familiar, like watching a Judd Apatow movie with all of the poop jokes cut out.”

Bio-Metric: 3/5