FAITHFUL TRAVELERS

A FATHER, HIS DAUGHTER, A FLY-FISHING JOURNEY OF THE HEART

Life is unraveling on golf writer Dodson—his much-loved father has died (written about poignantly in Final Rounds, 1996), now his wife wants a divorce’so to blow a little clean air through his spiritual fuel lines, he heads west on a camping/fishing trip with his daughter. Dodson only gets to take one of his two kids—Maggie, “seven going on fifteen— while brother Jack spends the summer with his mother, denizens, all, of “the Brave New World of loving coparenting.— Dodson and Maggie loaded their 10-year-old truck with camping equipment, plenty of junk food, and their 14-year-old dog, Amos. It was to be a footloose journey—destination unknown, somewhere out West—with good fishing as their mantra (Maggie had recently become a fly-fishing adept), the campgrounds chosen by serendipity. But Dodson isn’t really a laid-back fellow: He’s wound tight as a clock; he is hyperattentive to his daughter; he is a fussbudget and a worry wart and a know-it-all. Betwixt hitting various fishing venues, Maggie hits Dad with all sorts of precocious question——Do you, like, believe in miracles?” “What’s a Ghost Dance?” “What’s a prude?——and Dodson dispenses bushels of concise, thoughtful, accessible answers, as if reading from an index card set of accumulated wisdom, never at a loss to explain or enlighten, always with the mot juste. It all feels rehearsed, dreamed up after the fact, and the spontaneity of the trip (which was to be its leitmotif), not to mention its credibility, goes to hell in a basket. Dodson writes that they had a fine time, took in lots of historical and contemporary pleasures, successfully turned plenty of philosophical turf, became ever more intimate. Readers will likely suspect the fluidness of it all, particularly under the trying circumstances.

Pub Date: May 4, 1998

ISBN: 0-553-10644-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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