THE DIVORCE CULTURE

HOW DIVORCE BECAME AN ENTITLEMENT AND HOW IT IS BLIGHTING THE LIVES OF OUR CHILDREN

An eloquent diatribe against divorce as an entitlement in which the interests of other ``stakeholders,'' particularly children, are subordinated to the enhancement of self. Social historian Whitehead (who first advanced her argument in an award-winning 1993 Atlantic Monthly piece) contends that under the prevailing ethic of ``expressive individualism,'' divorce has become the psychologically approved response to marital dissatisfaction and, as such, morally neutralized (``no right or wrong reasons . . . only reasons'') and socially sanctioned. It is, she contends, even applauded, by the likes of liberals, feminists, and psychotherapists, whose agendas conveniently blind them to consequences that have surfaced on reappraisal. If, as Whitehead maintains, the early supporters believed that ``adults were emotionally fragile and need divorce, while children were emotionally resilient and could handle it,'' later studies bear out her own conclusion, felicitously articulated, that married parents have greater capacity to invest in their children both affectively and instrumentally and also ``to recruit other sources of social and emotional capital.'' Whitehead weakens her fine case for ``the norm of permanence'' when she fails to tame her tendency to caricature and accuses straw men of ``eroticizing'' the ``Love Family'' that putatively supplants the broken nuclear unit. These traits betoken a decidedly selective vision, as does the metonymic representation of contemporary American culture by a privileged subculture (one fluent in Friedan and Freud and affluent enough to forsake economic mobility for ``psychological entrepreneurialism''); ditto some idiosyncratic choices of historical reference points (Edith Wharton novels) and psycho- sociological citations. Whitehead's ethical bias in favor of responsible parenting is unassailable, however: Marriage, she says, is ``children's most basic form of social insurance,'' and marriages with children should be considered ``a special kind of trust.'' Her confrontation with that tough reality merits attention and support. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-43230-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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

HOW NOT TO HATE YOUR HUSBAND AFTER KIDS

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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