A PRAYER FOR THE DEPARTED

TALES OF A FAMILY THROUGH THE DECADES OF THE LAST CENTURY

Novelist and playwright Broder (Taking Care of Cleo, 2006, etc.) presents a series of vignettes about his family.

Broder begins by delving into his parents’ life stories, tracing the contours and examining particular moments (“All histories are selective,” Broder says in the foreword). The book is organized by decades and shares meaningful moments, beginning in the early 20th century before Broder’s birth (which sets the stage) and carrying through to the ’80s. While the book lacks a traditional narrative structure and arc, its straightforward, sweet retelling will remind readers of a grandfather sharing his delightfully quaint history, a peek into a sepia-toned old world. Readers learn of Broder’s father’s self-discipline and ethics and his mother’s lack of confidence. Intriguingly, the author doesn’t simply superficially serve a scramble of stories. Instead, he utilizes these portraits to demonstrate the effects of his parents’ behavior on his personality and growth. For instance, upon Broder’s discovery of an old paper of his father’s that succinctly detailed his father’s goals and aspirations, the father comes to represent “moral standards.” Broder’s careful, eloquent meditations upon family life transform this account from a mere history or memoir to a celebration of, and tribute to, family life. “What a curious idea,” Broder says when examining the idea that his family had “shared a life.” This curiosity propels the book and lends an authenticity and engaging quality to the author’s musings. Though his subject matter may seem extremely limited and personal, his elegiac, sincere storytelling keeps readers hooked and appreciative of a time that once was. The book’s glance at history as a moving force and its examination of each decade allow readers to realize and experience history and the past. Broder not only shares his life and journey with readers, but allows them to touch and feel it. A tender, inquisitive book that will appeal to those from old and new worlds.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461138938

Page Count: 233

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

DAD'S MAYBE BOOK

Ruminations and reminiscences of an author—now in his 70s—about fatherhood, writing, and death.

O’Brien (July, July, 2002, etc.), who achieved considerable literary fame with both Going After Cacciato (1978) and The Things They Carried (1990), returns with an eclectic assembly of pieces that grow increasingly valedictory as the idea of mortality creeps in. (The title comes from the author’s uncertainty about his ability to assemble these pieces in a single volume.) He begins and ends with a letter: The initial one is to his first son (from 2003); the terminal one, to his two sons, both of whom are now teens (the present). Throughout the book, there are a number of recurring sections: “Home School” (lessons for his sons to accomplish), “The Magic Show” (about his long interest in magic), and “Pride” (about his feelings for his sons’ accomplishments). O’Brien also writes often about his own father. One literary figure emerges as almost a member of the family: Ernest Hemingway. The author loves Hemingway’s work (except when he doesn’t) and often gives his sons some of Papa’s most celebrated stories to read and think and write about. Near the end is a kind of stand-alone essay about Hemingway’s writings about war and death, which O’Brien realizes is Hemingway’s real subject. Other celebrated literary figures pop up in the text, including Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Marvell, George Orwell, and Flannery O’Connor. Although O’Brien’s strong anti-war feelings are prominent throughout, his principal interest is fatherhood—specifically, at becoming a father later in his life and realizing that he will miss so much of his sons’ lives. He includes touching and amusing stories about his toddler sons, about the sadness he felt when his older son became a teen and began to distance himself, and about his anguish when his sons failed at something.

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-618-03970-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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