RAISING A PARENT

WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW?

A collection of 60 recommendations for coping with the needs of an aging parent.

While Liberman (Health Management & Informatics/University of Central Florida; Learning to Code with ICD-9-CM for Health Information Management and Health Services Information, 2006) has a doctoral degree and an academic position, his book eschews scholarly references and research findings for a personal narrative. The result is a book that is intensely personal and sometimes moving, but limited in its applicability. A major limitation comes from Liberman’s characterization of his caretaking role; he repeatedly refers to “22 years” of responsibility for his mother, but the narrative indicates that she lived independently in California for 16 of those years, including 4 years when Liberman lived in Florida. It appears that Liberman’s mother physically shared a home with him and his family for less than a month, at which time her frequent demands and negativism prompted him to have her return to her apartment. The references to “raising” a parent are therefore misleading. Liberman offers recommendations likely to be helpful to individuals struggling with a parent’s increased need for help, but they will not necessarily apply to individuals involved in daily caretaking. Another limitation is that chapters are poorly organized, with limited thematic continuity; chapters five and six deal with death and estate management respectively, and chapter seven addresses when the elderly should stop driving. The tone of the narrative becomes defensive at points (particularly when addressing management of financial affairs), and this defensiveness is linked to one of the book’s greatest strengths—Liberman’s willingness to admit his frustrations and mistakes; in the preface, the author says, “I would like the reader to know, as I am sure you will easily recognize throughout the text, that we did not always do everything right.” His honest disclosure of his sometimes unsuccessful struggles will almost certainly resonate with others who are dealing with an aging parent or facing their own negative emotions and missteps. A timely, important topic viewed through an intensely personal lens that limits the work’s applicability.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463534264

Page Count: 184

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

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AN INVISIBLE THREAD

THE TRUE STORY OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD PANHANDLER, A BUSY SALES EXECUTIVE, AND AN UNLIKELY MEETING WITH DESTINY

A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York.

When advertising executive Schroff answered a child’s request for spare change by inviting him for lunch, she did not expect the encounter to grow into a friendship that would endure into his adulthood. The author recounts how she and Maurice, a promising boy from a drug-addicted family, learned to trust each other. Schroff acknowledges risks—including the possibility of her actions being misconstrued and the tension of crossing socio-economic divides—but does not dwell on the complexities of homelessness or the philosophical problems of altruism. She does not question whether public recognition is beneficial, or whether it is sufficient for the recipient to realize the extent of what has been done. With the assistance of People human-interest writer Tresniowski (Tiger Virtues, 2005, etc.), Schroff adheres to a personal narrative that traces her troubled relationship with her father, her meetings with Maurice and his background, all while avoiding direct parallels, noting that their childhoods differed in severity even if they shared similar emotional voids. With feel-good dramatizations, the story seldom transcends the message that reaching out makes a difference. It is framed in simple terms, from attributing the first meeting to “two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams” that were “somehow meant to be friends” to the conclusion that love is a driving force. Admirably, Schroff notes that she did not seek a role as a “substitute parent,” and she does not judge Maurice’s mother for her lifestyle. That both main figures experience a few setbacks yet eventually survive is never in question; the story fittingly concludes with an epilogue by Maurice. For readers seeking an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4251-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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