Middling true crime: Cindy’s story would have benefited from a better presentation.

SHATTERED BONDS

A TRUE STORY OF SUSPICIOUS DEATH, FAMILY BETRAYAL AND A DAUGHTER’S COURAGE

Overheated account of murder in a tony Long Island enclave.

Sixteen-year-old Cindy Band arrived home in Old Westbury one night in the late 1970s to find an investigation underway into the purportedly accidental death of her mother Florence. Suspicion soon focused on her father Howard, portrayed by Cindy and coauthor Malear (Murder and Mayhem, not reviewed) as harsh, abusive, and manipulative. Detective Jack Sharkey perceived crime scene evidence contradicting Howard’s story, including indications that Florence had been tied up before her “fall.” Although sister Paula sided with their father, Cindy cooperated with Sharkey. This enraged the volatile Howard, who’d begun openly dating his mistress Liz, a local travel agent he ultimately married. Her father assaulted Cindy, threatened through Liz to kidnap her following his eventual indictment, and tried to discredit her grand-jury testimony by conniving to have her involuntarily held in a mental hospital for ten days. The third-person narrative alternates between following Cindy through these ordeals and watching Sharkey pursue the case. In the end, Howard was convicted of second-degree murder, and Cindy and Paula reconciled after the verdict. While serving his sentence, Howard divorced Liz, who then married one of his fellow prisoners, also a convicted murderer. Later, on his jailhouse deathbed, Howard finally confessed his guilt to Cindy and claimed Liz had helped him, as the cops had suspected. Compelling elements here include an examination of spousal abuse hidden within upright households and a tart portrait of Long Island’s brittle, moneyed suburbia. The account on the whole, however, suffers badly from chaotic, underedited prose that emphasizes unnecessary description and veers from improbable nonsense (a presumably experienced police officer muses, “How could a guy possibly kill his wife? To Sharkey, it was inconceivable, but of course, it happened too often”) through melodrama (“Her own father was a murderer and she both hated and pitied him”) into plain old clumsiness (“The two men sipped from their cups of coffee thoughtfully, both deep in thought”).

Middling true crime: Cindy’s story would have benefited from a better presentation.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-88282-221-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: New Horizon

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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AN INVISIBLE THREAD

THE TRUE STORY OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD PANHANDLER, A BUSY SALES EXECUTIVE, AND AN UNLIKELY MEETING WITH DESTINY

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.

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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