An uneven romance that is equal parts soap opera and modern fairytale.

FINDING HOPE

Polanco’s (The Acquisition, 2016) sentimental melodrama follows bereaved mother Kate Connor and her unexpected relationship with the man involved in her son’s death.

After Kate recovers physically from a car accident that killed her son, Oliver, in New York, she retreats to Japan. Soon she receives a remorseful letter from Rey Aguilar, the man driving the car that killed Oliver. Rey is a Grammy-winning saxophonist and longtime bachelor who wants to donate money to a charity in Oliver’s name. Kate forgives Rey for his role in Oliver’s death, and they become pen pals, though Rey wants more. Kate simultaneously fields advances from Trevor Miles, a wealthy businessman. When Rey and Kate reunite in New York, their relationship deepens. Kate accepts a manager position at the Trevor Miles Gallery in New York, but her interactions with Miles turn problematic. After returning alone to Japan, Kate grapples with a life-altering circumstance. Back in New York, she tries to track down Rey, but he, too, has left the country believing her heart belongs to Trevor. Polanco certainly has a unique plot and demonstrates solid scene-setting: “Frustrated tourists huddled in cafés and tapas bars in an effort to be light and jovial as the rain-washed away their hopes of a sun-drenched holiday.” She also adequately captures a woman emerging from grief (Kate “no longer felt like a dead leaf floating in the air”). And telling the story from multiple third-person perspectives makes for a well-rounded account of events. But Polanco’s similes are weak, such as “her hair was like a waterfall of milk chocolate” or saying Kate felt “like Cinderella arriving at the ball.” Some readers may appreciate the saccharine nature of Kate and Rey’s interactions, but others will find sentiments like “he saw passion in her eyes and she raw emotion in his” as trite.

An uneven romance that is equal parts soap opera and modern fairytale.

Pub Date: June 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5434-2043-2

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2018

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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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