A touching, sensitive journey that will, like Masson’s previous books, find a wide audience.

LOST COMPANIONS

REFLECTIONS ON THE DEATH OF PETS

The acclaimed author of numerous books about the emotional lives of animals now turns to the experience of losing a pet.

“I believe it is a deep and ancient longing, to bond with a member of a different species,” writes Masson near the beginning of this heart-rending foray into the challenge of “facing the death of…the animal you have come to love like any other member of the family.” Nothing brings home the depth of that relationship like death, upon which we “are confronted with mortality in general, writ large in these animals who have become family, but in some sense even more than family—maybe part of ourselves.” The author investigates the psychology of this loss through testimonies from their human companions as well as conversations with friends and veterinarians. Masson’s tone is sympathetic, for he is a firm believer in the sentience of animals and the dignity with which they should be treated in life and death. He argues that animals have a sense of impending death and that death could be as relevant to them as it is to us. Dogs, in particular, bring an unalloyed state of pure happiness when they are in our presence, an elemental love free of all the baggage that accompanies human relationships. In many ways, that is why their loss is so heartbreaking. Occasionally, Masson’s associations go too far—“losing [a pet] is very much like losing a child”—but readers can skip parts that seem over the edge. The author has many wise things to impart about a child’s grief—e.g., “it is important to recognize the genuineness of the emotions of the child, to honor them by taking them seriously.”

A touching, sensitive journey that will, like Masson’s previous books, find a wide audience.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20223-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Tragedy as well as triumph in this meticulous, fascinating tale of three generations of Churchills.

CHURCHILL & SON

Churchill as family man.

In addition to being the subject of countless biographies, Churchill published hundreds of articles and more than 40 books of his own. In this detailed, engaging narrative, Ireland demonstrates that there is more to be learned about one of the most written-about political figures in history. Exploring the statesman’s relationship with his son, Randolph, the author begins with Churchill’s own famously unhappy childhood, chronicling his parents’ “almost comically detached method of care.” Churchill overcompensated for his father’s neglect by spoiling his son, a poorly behaved boy who became a profligate student and undisciplined adult. For all his gifts and achievements, Randolph led a chaotic life. In one two-week period in 1939, anxious for an heir lest he be killed in the war, he proposed to eight different women, all of whom turned him down. The ninth, Pamela Digby, accepted, and a year later, she became mother to his son, also named Winston. Shortly after, she was forced to rent out their home and take a job to pay down his gambling debts. On the positive side, Randolph was a gifted extempore speaker, effective journalist, and influential counselor to his father—and, later, his biographer. While recounting their relationship, Ireland draws unforgettable sketches of life in the Churchill circle, much like Erik Larson did in The Splendid and the Vile. For example, the family home at Chartwell required nearly 20 servants, as celebrities, politicians, and other “extraordinary people” came and went on a daily basis. Throughout, Ireland is generous with the bijou details: Churchill hated whistling and banned it. When dining alone, he would sometimes have a place set for his cat. His valet would select his clothes, “even pulling on his socks.” After retiring to Pratt’s club after Parliament ended its evening session, he would sometimes “take over the grill and cook the food himself.”

Tragedy as well as triumph in this meticulous, fascinating tale of three generations of Churchills.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4445-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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