A deeply moving family memoir largely about the author’s parents, Holocaust survivors who, like Madeleine Albright’s parents, passed as European refugees to America and brought up their children as largely unpracticing Christians—Catholics, in this case. Fremont’s is in part the tale of two pairs of sisters: first, her aunt’s and her mother’s desperate attempts to survive the Holocaust in part by passing as Catholic Ukrainians, in part by intermarrying (to an Italian count in her aunt’s case) or converting and finally by a kind of willed amnesia in their postwar homes, in America and Italy. Secondly, there is the account of the extensive and successful detective work undertaken by Fremont and her sister to uncover the hidden past. She also explores the more difficult efforts to pierce her mother’s and aunt’s resistance to looking at the unspeakable horrors they had experienced. Equally graphic and moving is the parallel account of Fremont’s father, who miraculously survived six particularly brutal and harrowing years in the Siberian Gulag during and after the Holocaust. Finally, she writes about how her parents’ penchant for silence and secrecy lent an undertone of sadness and unreality to their and their daughters’ otherwise normal and happy lives in the US. In unearthing and reimagining her family’s history, in part through the testimony of her parents’ relatives and friends, in part through historical documents, Fremont describes herself as feeling “like an archeologist dusting layers of sand from ancient rooms.” She has a disconcerting tendency sometimes to veer too abruptly between the past and the present, though this also is understandable, for her memoir concerns how family secrets affect and distort individual lives and family dynamics. But Fremont is an immensely gifted writer who has vividly reconstructed a sensitive and memorable family saga of terror, hiding, and passing, as well as of personal imperatives over two generations around both casting off and confronting the past. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-33369-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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