After this paean to all he’s learned, it’s jarring to read that Murphy later returned to the Sports Illustrated life. He may...



Predictable but funny account of a sports journalist’s half-year stint as a stay-at-home dad.

“I am like most husbands. We think we have a vague idea of what our wives do in our absence, if we think about it at all,” writes Murphy (The Sweet Season, 2001). He had reached critical mass at Sports Illustrated, a magazine that demanded chronic absenteeism from Murphy’s duties as a father and husband: “I was missing their lives. I would not get a chance to do this over.” Of course, he doesn’t know from critical mass. The chronology of entropy that ensues is a well-worn trail, and even if Murphy is not Cary Grant in Father Goose, he does possess a certain vulgar charm of the kind that might be scripted for the actor Owen Wilson. He’s clueless when his wife warns him, “Every minute of your day is accounted for. . . . If you don’t comprehend that, you’re screwed from the start,” and he is screwed from the start. But Murphy proves to be a quick if bumbling study. He learns that when the day-to-day caregiver gets sick, tough on you; he learns that when the kids get sick and spoil your schedule (by now he has learned all about the sacrosanct calendar), too bad. He learns all about anger, quoting Anne Roiphe on “the quick summer storm kind of anger, the slow burn anger, the underground anger” that will find him more than once “nodding offhandedly to my perfectly reasonable desire to gangster-slap my six-year-old.” (Just a passing thought, never acted upon.) Murphy learns a bushel, from why sex evaporates to why supposedly fun things like skiing and camping trips become a drag.

After this paean to all he’s learned, it’s jarring to read that Murphy later returned to the Sports Illustrated life. He may claim that since his adventure, “when I’m home, I’m more involved,” but that’s cold comfort.

Pub Date: May 3, 2004

ISBN: 0-8050-7480-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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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.


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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