"Shocking ... compelling ... like the best prison lit!" — Village Voice Literary Supplement

 Author Sheila Isenberg provides a fascinating look at women 'compelled to dance with the masters of death,' women so obsessed with convicted murders that they marry them, often giving up everything else in their lives, including their children, to fulfill their deepest fantasies. Isenberg interviewed dozens of these women, some of their men, as well as corrections professionals, psychiatrists, and psychologists. The profile that emerges is of 'little girls lost,' women who were damaged by painful childhoods who are living in a fantasy world, in love not with a real man but with an illusion based on denial. Isenberg's skills in getting those women to reveal themselves, her ability to present them as sympathetic and understandable, and her synthesis of the material they provided make for a engrossing report." —Kirkus Review

“Pathology meets pathology. Investigative journalist Isenberg's book is compelling.” — Amazon review


Muriel’s war: An american heiress in the nazi resistance

“Terrible times can elicit extraordinary deeds even from ordinary people, and Muriel Gardiner was anything but ordinary … [Sheila Isenberg sets] the story straight about this intrepid American heroine.” —The Boston Globe 

"Performed an act of historic justice.” —The Jerusalem Post

“… privilege, exotic friendships, intellectual adventure, international intrigue, and danger marked the life story of American heiress Muriel Gardiner. But that doesn’t cover this woman’s contribution to the history of World War II, the magnetism that drew a fascinating string of lovers to her, nor her nerve in using her wealth to save countless lives from the rolling Nazi juggernaut in the 1930s and 40s. It seems like the stuff movies are made of. And in Gardiner’s case, maybe it was.” —America in World War II Magazine

“Muriel Gardner was a beautiful, electrifying woman who mixed with high society, was a part of Sigmund Freud's inner circle, and eventually joined the Austrian underground, where she helped thousands of Jews and anti-Fascists escape the Nazis. Her remarkable life story continued after the war with philanthropy and preservation of Freud's memory.” —Library Journal

“In many ways, Muriel Gardiner's existence was the embodiment of the American dream … With a keen eye for detail, Isenberg explores Gardiner's life and admirable sacrifices.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The life of Muriel Gardiner … is truly heartwarming – the number of lives she saved… [a]nd the saga of her long, adventurous life makes thoroughly fascinating reading … Isenberg delves quite deeply into Muriel’s personality ... [and] tells not only a detailed story of her life, but also adds greatly to our knowledge of life in Europe as events marched inexorably toward the catastrophe of World War II.” —San Diego Jewish World

 “Sheila Isenberg skillfully weaves together the complex threads of Muriel's life into a riveting story of her many loves and unassuming heroism.” —Brenda Webster, author of Vienna Triangle

Muriel’s War portrays the energetic idealism and exceptional generosity of its subject with admiration, even devotion. Through careful attention to every available source, Isenberg details the remarkable achievements of a life filled to overflowing with benevolent action and unflinching reflection.”— George Rupp, President, International Rescue Committee 

"Beautiful, brilliant, rich, brave, Muriel Gardiner could have been a character in a potboiler novel -- but she was a real-life heroine of the Nazi resistance and Sheila Isenberg has done an extraordinary job of documenting her remarkable life both conscientiously and suspensefully in this absorbing biography." —Amanda Vaill, author of Everybody Was So Young: Sara and Gerald Murphy —A Lost Generation Love Story 

"… an utterly absorbing book … dramatic, suspenseful, and movingly inspirational."

—Arthur Zitrin, M.D., Professor emeritus of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, co-producer of the documentary "The Real Julia: The Muriel Gardiner Story”

"Isenberg puts Gardiner's life in sharp focus--what twists in her life brought her to Vienna and ultimately to underground resistance work during and after Hitler's 1938 takeover of Austria. We see what makes Gardiner human, and what makes her a hero, but most of all we see how one woman can make a difference in the lives of many. Muriel Gardiner looked fear in the face, and as Eleanor Roosevelt has said, 'we must do that which we think we cannot.'" —JoAnn Myers, chair of the Eleanor Roosevelt Center, professor of Political Science & Women's Studies at Marist College


A hero of our own: The Story of varian fry

eBook now available! Click here.

“One of the BEST BOOKS of 2001. This little book is a life of a saint equal to any medieval tome.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch


“The story of Varian Fry is important on many levels, historical and personal. Skillfully evoking a crucial moment in recent history, Sheila Isenberg tells the compelling and dramatic story of how an ordinary person, thrust into a situation of extreme danger, did extraordinary things for one year in wartime France, then drifted almost lost through the rest of his own life. It is also a story of institutionalized bureaucratic stupidity that must never be forgotten so that it is never repeated.”
– The late Richard Holbrooke, U.S. diplomat

“Using Fry’s own words and the testimony of refugees and compatriots, Isenberg skillfully evokes the tense atmosphere of wartime Marseille, where a hoard of desperate refugees found precarious asylum. She describes the extreme measures Fry took to save as many endangered souls as he could, far more than the 200 intellectuals, scientists, writers, and artists he had been sent to aid, gathering others to help him arrange escapes from internment camps, forge documents, bribe officials, and spirit refugees across the border into Spain. Skirting danger and side-stepping the law, Fry and his group ultimately provided financial or travel assistance to approximately 4,000 refugees and enabled almost half of them to escape, all on limited resources and with little or no assistance from the United States consulate in Marseille.”
– United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Featured Book

“The story of Varian Fry is perhaps less well known than that of Oscar Schindler, but to some he became known as the ‘American Schindler’ or ‘The Artist’s Schindler’… This book can assist the teacher to introduce to students, historical content, and religious and moral values, while personalizing events of the Holocaust.”
– Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies, Featured Book

“Varian Fry, the only American honored at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, played a crucial role in rescuing more than 1,000 European refugees from the Nazis in the early 1940s. With his Emergency Rescue Committee, Fry rescued Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Hannah Arendt, Heinrich Mann, and other intellectuals, political activists, and what the Nazis called ‘degenerate’ artists, many of them Jews. Yet, up until the late 1990s, few in this country had heard of Fry. This highly readable biography tells the exciting escape stories of the underground railroad he organized to lead refugees from southern France across the Pyrenees to freedom. Isenberg sets the rescue stories against the background of American isolationism and anti-Semitism at the time, documenting her dramatic narrative with more than 70 pages of fascinating notes, including references to letters, interviews, personal papers, and government reports. The drama here is in the thrill of rescue, the realistic portrait of a complex leader, and the decidedly nonheroic truths about WWII at home… A must for WWII collections…”
– Booklist, by Hazel Rochman

“Now that America has been shocked into a new appreciation of heroism, the story of the late Varian Fry is especially timely. Sheila Isenberg devotes most of the book to the specifics of Fry’s action-packed months in Marseilles, when he ferried numerous Jews (Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, and Hannah Arendt, to name a few) out of occupied France. This is where Isenberg starts to explore new terrain: Tales of survivors and saviors are familiar to us, but Fry was both. And he was American.”
– Washington Post Book World

“Sheila Isenberg has written a masterful biography of this most enigmatic man. She pulls no punches in exhibiting his flaws, but shows no restraint in praising his virtues … [Fry's life] is truly unique and compelling, and Isenberg tells it with considerable compassion. The book is well worth the attention of anyone interested in reading about a most unlikely 20th-century hero.”
– The Roanoke Times

“A HERO OF OUR OWN comes at a time when we need to remind ourselves of the high price of sticking one’s neck out for others. Isenberg’s work is a painstakingly documented book that presents human nature at its best and worst. In this dark work, she portrays Fry as a flawed but dedicated idealist.”
– The Free-Lance Star, Fredericksburg, VA

“This is one more time when you have to say: ‘Read the book!’[A Hero of Our Own] records one adventure after another. From almost the moment that Varian Fry landed in Marseilles, in occupied Vichy, France, with basically no prior training or experience in emigration matters, he engineered the work of a dedicated staff that not only directly assisted the escape and emigration efforts of many survivors, but also documented the nefarious activities of Nazis and their sympathizers. Some day soon, another Hollywood scriptwriter may prepare this story once more for a movie or theatrical presentation, but as I said, one can obtain quite a thrill by reading this book.”

“Given the new gravity of public discourse, it may be a propitious time for the book. Isenberg finds an analogy between the isolationist spirit during Fry’s days ‘and the insular period we went through’ before September 11. Beyond that, Fry’s heroism has its own power. Some call him the ‘American Schindler’ and, indeed, Isenberg finds an explanation proffered by Oskar Schindler’s surprising heroism applicable to Fry: only a ‘divine inspiration’ could explain how such a man could draw so deeply on his principles, creativity, courage and tenacity to stem the tide of history.”
– Publisher’s Weekly Interview

“You’ll want to read Sheila Isenberg’s riveting biography of Varian Fry, A Hero of Our Own. It is the flashback to Fry’s early life that gave this reader the clearest insight not only into the man but into the times he lived in. He was a man who ‘chafed at the world,’ a rebel against authority [and] a hero abroad. He died in 1967, an ordinary person who had done extraordinary things just once in his life. There are 16 pages of photos [and] interviews with survivors, letters and records.”
– Taconic Times 

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My Life as a Radical Lawyer: William Kunstler