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And . . . Just Like That


Loved it! 😍

An intimate, smart, well-written memoir set in New York City. A coming of age story, a lifetime of corporate law and a leap to freedom.

Mark Shaiken has written an intimate smart memoir, a coming-of-age story of a small boy, a Russian Jew who lived in Queens, NYC, moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and back again. He does a great job of capturing the city's nervous energy; gotta do gotta go when do I pay mentality that the place breeds. He also captured the social moments of the time and shares his all-consuming love of baseball. Shaiken has a dry sense of humor, and he's not afraid to make fun of himself. I laughed out loud quite a few times, But then he decides to become a lawyer and gets trapped…or does he?  

The book is very well written and edited. A lot of time was put into this, and it shows. The structure is linear and captures snapshots in the life of a free-spirited boy who becomes caged by a suit and tie in the corporate world of bankruptcy law. He soon realizes that his career affords him none of the personal growth and freedom that he pines for. But on the flip side, his legal career allows him to feed his family, pay his mortgage, enjoy status and prestige. You'd think by the way he talks that he believes he sold his soul to the devil and missed the opportunity to become something other. But it seems to me that he didn't get that bad of a deal.

Over the years, he discovers that his bottom nature - the kid that liked reading Superman comics, played the guitar, wore his hair like George Harrison, and burned his draft card in 1974, has been trapped in a world he constructed for reasons he never questioned have become an unacceptable way of life. No, he didn't have to give back all the money he earned as a lawyer and take a drive into the abyss. That job paid for the comforts of his predetermined strategized exit. Courageous, it was not.

All readers will enjoy this. Even if you are not a lawyer, Shaiken has a way of taking you through the details of how the law works in ways that are interesting and educational without all the lawyerly hocus-pocus. 

There are, however, some things I wanted Shaiken to explore. The big elephant in the book. Over 18 years, his parents moved him into over 18 homes and a plethora of apartments. That kind of behavior is unheard of even in foster children. Something was going on. It does not take a genius to know that this lifestyle is a blueprint for creating lifelong trauma in a child. There's the story. Why would parents do this? What were they running from or to? Did this heighten Shaiken's desire for freedom? Is that why he kept himself in the suit, to avoid asking these questions. It's a good thing he's got time on his hands to start exploring because there is a lot more going on here than just a grab for freedom.

There is a secret worth telling; you see, freedom has a consequence, and one that requires courage. Getting free is one thing living free is an entirely different matter; that space requires a writer to peer under the rocks in one's life where the darkness and uncomfortable moments live and bring them to the light. Only then can one claim freedom but just for a moment because the next rock must be dug up, and it is usually deeper than the first. It's a good thing Shaiken can take his skills as a writer, use his newfound freedom and step up to the plate and create that New York Times Bestseller because there is a lot more going on here than just a grab for liberty.

I would advise heightening the atmosphere with more colors and smells. Definitely add more Jewish cultural components: events, food, history. Also, watch out for repetitive words – the word contemplation is used five times in one paragraph at one point. I think that the writing style could do well in the thriller/detective genre.

Reviewed by

I have an M.A in Eng Lit, a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Writers Union. I like defined character archs and plot structures. You will receive a honest review. "We are not here to race one another to the top but to keep others from falling down." Kayhallny@gmail


About the author

Listen or watch Mark discuss his path into and out of the law on these podcasts: Empower Humans and The Authors Unite Show Mark lives with his wife Loren and Emily the dog in Denver, Colorado. He schooled at Haverford College and Washburn University. view profile

Published on April 20, 2020

Published by

90000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Career Guides

Reviewed by