Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - The Golden Ticket: A Life in College Admissions Essays, by Irena Smith {ends 3/28}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

How did you spend the last two summers?

By the time Mara is five, David and I begin to believe that we successfully willed into being the charmed life we envisioned for ourselves. Mara is curious and funny and affectionate; Noah acts like the mayor of his elementary school, where he seems to know and like everyone and where everyone seems to know and like him. We discover a family camp in the Sierras and return there for a blissful week every summer. Jordan has friends with whom he tosses a football after school and friends David stealthily helps him cultivate by running elaborate Lord of the Rings-themed games every Saturday. Our garage is full of laminated topographical maps of Middle Earth and boxes of Lord of the Rings miniature figures, which range from a minuscule squatting Gollum to towering Ents. On Saturdays, our house is filled with boys rolling multi-sided dice and yelling about critical rolls. There’s dropped popcorn all over the floor. We order pizza and act like this is all totally normal, like we’ve been the fun house since time immemorial.

While nothing seems to work out like the author expects, she eventually realizes and admits that it all somehow seems to work out.

Official synopsis:
Palo Alto, California, is home to stratospheric real estate prices and equally high expectations, a place where everyone has to be good at something and where success is often defined by the name of a prestigious college on the back of a late-model luxury car. It’s also the place where Irena Smith—Soviet √©migr√©, PhD in comparative literature, former Stanford admission reader—works as a private college counselor to some of the country’s most ambitious and tightly wound students . . . even as, at home, her own children unravel.

Narrated as a series of responses to college application essay prompts, The Golden Ticket combines sharp social commentary, family history, and the lessons of great (and not so great) literature to offer a broader, more generous vision of what it means to succeed. 

Parenting is a hard job, even if you have every qualification imaginable. The author has her PhD in comparative literature and counsels other people’s children through the college admissions process. What this unfortunately means for a lot of the students she works with is helping them to fulfill their parents’ dreams. The comparison between her family life and that of those showing her only their best stories doesn’t help her find peace.

In a unique presentation, the author uses writing prompts from different college applications to tell her own life story, so far. Ending up as a parent of three children with their own challenges is not like the American dream that was sold to her when she came to the United States with her parents as a child. She and her husband are smart people, with plenty of resources at their disposal, but they quickly learn that each child is different, and each of their problems never has the same solution twice.

This was a charming and emotionally engaging memoir that told of the author’s emigration to the U.S. in the late 1970s, to her own childhood and then courtship with her husband, and on to the birth and raising (so far) of their three children. Their struggles are heartfelt and relatable, and illustrate clearly that even the perfect, happy life is frequently not as it appears. This book gets 4 out of 5 stars and would be enjoyed by those who enjoy parenting and family stories. 

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife and a mother to humans and cats. She enjoys snacking, reading, and hoping her children find things like these that make them happy too. Check out some of her other book reviews and family activities on her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Golden Ticket!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, March 28th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Golden Ticket: A Life in College Admissions Essays, by Irena Smith


Post a Comment

Share buttons


Welcome to Books I Think You Should Read, which focuses on book reviews, author interviews, giveaways, and more.
Get new posts by email:

2024 Reading Challenge

2024 Reading Challenge
Liz has read 0 books toward her goal of 20 books.

Blog Archive