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Corny but comforting lessons for readers seeking a simpler way of life.

Nostalgic collection by the bestselling author of the Valentine series and Big Stone Gap series.

The author’s grandmothers, Lucia Spada and Yolanda “Viola” Perin, both from working-class Italian immigrant backgrounds, knew the score in home economics, maintaining a nice figure, sex and marriage. Trigiani (Brava, Valentine, 2010, etc.) draws on their forthright skills in fashioning a comfortable home for their families in this righteous primer for the virtuous life. Viola grew up on a farm in Delabole, Pa., where her parents began work in the Slate Quarry upon their immigration from Veneto in 1906. Viola met her husband while working at a pants factory in Bangor, Pa., and eventually they started their own mill in Martins Creek, the Yolanda Manufacturing Company, which operated successfully until the late ’60s. Viola lived most of her life in an opulent Tudor home in Flicksville, not far from the mill, where she entertained friends, maintained cars “of the moment” and generally lived the good life. Similarly, Lucia, born in Italy, immigrated to New York City with her father in 1917, and found work as a seamstress in a Hoboken, N.J., factory. Relocated with her new Italian husband to Chisholm, Minn., she made a success as a couturiere as well as running a shoe shop, which sustained her and her three children after her husband’s died when she was 35. What did these hardworking ladies impart to the author, who visited their homes as a child and closely observed them? They both pursued careers while raising their children; they never threw anything away, having both known poverty (when asked why she only owned three dresses, Lucia replied: “How many can I wear at one time?”); they both had sprezzatura (“effortless style”); they never retired, never remarried and kept up impeccable reputations; and they bought their own homes. Their child-raising skills, moreover, come across as charming if apocryphally rose-colored.

Corny but comforting lessons for readers seeking a simpler way of life.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-195894-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

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. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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