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


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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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. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after...


Self-help advice and personal reflections on avoiding spousal fights while raising children.

Before her daughter was born, bestselling author Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, 2009, etc.) enjoyed steady work and a happy marriage. However, once she became a mother, there never seemed to be enough time, sleep, and especially help from her husband. Little irritations became monumental obstacles between them, which led to major battles. Consequently, they turned to expensive couples' therapy to help them regain some peace in life. In a combination of memoir and advice that can be found in most couples' therapy self-help books, Dunn provides an inside look at her own vexing issues and the solutions she and her husband used to prevent them from appearing in divorce court. They struggled with age-old battles fought between men and women—e.g., frequency of sex, who does more housework, who should get up with the child in the middle of the night, why women need to have a clean house, why men need more alone time, and many more. What Dunn learned via therapy, talks with other parents, and research was that there is no perfect solution to the many dynamics that surface once couples become parents. But by using time-tested techniques, she and her husband learned to listen, show empathy, and adjust so that their former status as a happy couple could safely and peacefully morph into a happy family. Readers familiar with Dunn's honest and humorous writing will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at her own semi-messy family life, and those who need guidance through the rough spots can glean advice while being entertained—all without spending lots of money on couples’ therapy.

A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after the birth of their child.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26710-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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