RAISING ABEL

A woman of remarkable resourcefulness single-handedly raises a troubled child all the way to manhood in this intimate and inspiring blog-to-book memoir.

At 38, Carolyn Nash had a good job, no apparent struggles and few conscious regrets—save, perhaps, her weight and her childlessness. She remedies the latter by fostering and then adopting 3-year-old Abel, a victim of unspeakable parental abuse, most of it sexual. The consequences are predictable and agonizing. Abel is charmingly innocent yet uncontrollably violent, and as he grows, so do his PTSD symptoms. He refuses to bathe, he fails in school. Thrown toys become thrown punches, then smashed windshields. Psychiatrists are consulted, police called. Special education, home-schooling, hospitalizations, meds—all resources are tried and exhausted. Yet Nash remains indefatigable, wrestling with her son (literally) and with her inner demons and repressed memories, haltingly revealed in sessions with her therapist. Through the lens of Abel’s trauma, Nash peers into her own nightmares—she too feels deformed and unlovable—and learns their sick source. The book is structured almost entirely in short, dramatic episodes, a technique Nash uses skillfully, though the dialogue at times grows repetitive and similar scenes tend to pile up. A bit of condensing and narrative summarizing would have propelled events more quickly and provided perspective on this 18-year saga. And although Nash faithfully records Abel’s words and behavior, for much of the book he remains a cipher. Only late in the story, when the troubled teen turns violently on Nash herself, do we get a penetrating glimpse into Abel’s beating heart, where his triggers, his alienation and his lifelong struggle come into searing focus. Here Nash gives us Abel in full, and we see with our own eyes how the measure of this young man is also the measure of the woman who raised him—with pure, dogged, unrelenting, overwhelming, at times selfish, often desperate, boundless, evergreen love. This was her treatment and her cure. We know it by its common term—mothering. A sobering but uplifting tale of love that never gives up; dramatically told, ultimately rewarding.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466499263

Page Count: 332

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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