For anyone who has dealt with the loss of a loved one and found comfort in unexpected places, Maas’ honest, touching account...

The Beagle and the Brain Tumor

Deon Lock Maas makes her bittersweet debut with a memoir about caring for her terminally ill husband with the help of a mischievous beagle.

Readers first meet Maas, an art teacher, and Tom, her lawyer husband, while they are receiving devastating news. Despite being just shy of 60, Tom has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and will require extensive treatment and care to manage his slow decline. Immediately, Maas sees her normally gregarious and outgoing husband transformed into a shell of his former self. Doctors search for ways to prolong his life, and not long into the process, Maas is inspired to adopt a beagle for whom she develops an immediate affinity, their empty nest now housing three. It’s quickly apparent that the dog thinks first with his stomach; he’s named Hoover for his ability to find and remove any crumb of food. The book progresses with funny stories about Hoover, anecdotes about Tom’s treatment, Maas’ adjustment to being a caregiver, and the various stresses and strains the situation has placed on both of them. Maas doesn’t go out of her way to sugarcoat things, and despite its serious topic, the book is filled with laughs, lighthearted anecdotes and fond character sketches of Tom’s unique personality. This positive approach helps make the book so endearing. The story begins at a moment of tragedy, but by focusing on the happy moments—the shared laughter, the enduring love—Maas illustrates how grief can be conquered. Hoover is there through it all, typically stealing something off the kitchen table at exactly the moment when Maas and Tom need some comic relief. Dog lovers will delight in the tales of Hoover’s antics and his “naughty and attention-seeking” ways. The book reaches a predictably sad ending, though it feels more like a transition than a conclusion.

For anyone who has dealt with the loss of a loved one and found comfort in unexpected places, Maas’ honest, touching account will feel welcomingly familiar.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4921-4940-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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