A unique, often marvelous memoir of discovery.


Schmidt recounts his lifelong quest to understand his father, a journalist who fled Germany on the eve of World War II, in this investigative memoir.

Schmidt’s father, Pascasio Trujillo, was not like other fathers in 1930s Berlin. He didn’t live with Schmidt and his brother, Roni, or their mother, Klara, though his infrequent visits were a source of joy. Schmidt knew that his father had come from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and that he had a mother and sister in Cuba. One day in 1939, Pascasio arrived abruptly at the apartment and said they needed to leave Germany immediately. Klara refused, so Pascasio went without them. “That Friday morning changed me,” remembers Schmidt. “I would search for an answer most of my life. I wanted my father back. Even after a lifetime, I still hear Pascasio tearing down the stairs, two and three steps at a time.” He would encounter his father again, years later, though his search for answers took much longer and crisscrossed the globe, from Hitler’s Berlin to Nazi-occupied Poland to Franco’s Spain, Castro’s Cuba, the border-crossing highways of Central America, the safe haven of Canada, and ultimately to the Canary Islands of Pascasio’s birth. Along the way, Schmidt’s search for his father becomes one for himself as the absence of one man becomes the crucible in which another is forged. Schmidt writes in an elegant, thoughtful prose that captures the author’s quiet but insistent pining for understanding: “In Madrid, I got off the plane and slowly regained my bearings. From Pascasio’s last short letter, I had the impression that he looked forward to seeing me. I was sure he would be curious about my experience meeting his Cuban mother. I was so surprised when he did not ask.” The book is long, and not every chapter is thrilling, but Schmidt provides a first-person account of so many fascinating times and places that it more than makes up for the lulls. The enigma of Pascasio becomes secondary to the experience of viewing major developments of the 20th century through one man’s personal development.

A unique, often marvelous memoir of discovery.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2465-3

Page Count: 648

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?