Relatively Criminal: A Memoir

Abear’s (Mom…You’re Not Naked, Are You?, 2000) memoir tells the story of her close-knit relationship with her brother, a lifelong criminal and addict, and her attempts to care for him.
In 1983, the author had just gotten out of a dead-end marriage when her younger brother, Frank, contacted her from prison. Although she hadn’t talked with him for years, she agreed to let him live with her and her two young sons once he was paroled. They both grew up in a household with an aloof, self-absorbed mother and a predatory stepfather, and they now began to depend increasingly upon each other for emotional support. However, she soon realized that despite their bond and Frank’s childlike, gregarious good nature, she couldn’t do anything to turn him away from a life of drugs and theft. She continued to support him, appearing for his court dates, pleading with public defenders and visiting him in prison as his life spiraled further out of control. Abear remarried, and her life began to flourish, while Frank continued to steal to finance his dependence on hard drugs—despite a nearly fatal staph infection and an eventual HIV diagnosis. Abear perfectly captures the 1980s zeitgeist, and her often dark humor hits the mark, as when she tells the story of when her brother, mistakenly released from jail, stole a car and broke into a condom machine before police picked him up. (The author quips that she was “sure the drunken dating population in the area was happy to see the local rubber supply return to normal.”) Although she never seeks to excuse her brother’s lifestyle, Abear shows how he was repeatedly denied access to drug-treatment programs, drawing attention to a system that’s more invested in punishment than rehabilitation.
A hilarious, heartbreaking and poignant story of family ties that bind, against all odds.

Pub Date: July 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0967710112

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Moonshadow Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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