An important, thoughtfully balanced book aimed at shifting thinking and providing concrete steps toward encouraging...

Reflections on the benefits of giving children the chance to experience failure—and how to go about doing it.

A teacher and writer on education and parenting for the New York Times and the Atlantic, Lahey provides an overview of parenting values through the decades in order to ensure that we don’t return to outdated values, as well as to examine the weaknesses of the current approach. This would, in theory, provide useful information toward a new paradigm, rather than simply lurching back toward the end of the spectrum that involves such actions as smacking students’ hands with rulers when they are disrespectful. While certainly not advocating that approach, Lahey is also unwilling to turn a blind eye to the problems inherent in modern parenting, which she characterizes as essentially overridden by parents’ concerns about securing the best possible everything for their children: experiences free of disappointment, a prize for every participant, making sure self-esteem, above all else, is maintained. The result, the author argues compellingly, is hobbling children, leaving them unable to develop actual self-understanding and competency in how to integrate the idea of failure into their lives. Lahey brings her own parenting to the table, dissecting her difficulties in practicing what she preaches. For example, when her son leaves for school without the homework he’d worked so hard on, and she sees it, should she bring it to him and save him from missing recess? The author admits her struggles with holding the line and letting natural consequences take their course. In the majority of the book, Lahey focuses on strategies for navigating the parent/child/school triangle to avoid getting entangled in controlling the experience, but she also considers home chores, peer relationships, and a variety of other topics.

An important, thoughtfully balanced book aimed at shifting thinking and providing concrete steps toward encouraging positive—and realistic—self-image development.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229923-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015


A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

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. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019



A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York.

When advertising executive Schroff answered a child’s request for spare change by inviting him for lunch, she did not expect the encounter to grow into a friendship that would endure into his adulthood. The author recounts how she and Maurice, a promising boy from a drug-addicted family, learned to trust each other. Schroff acknowledges risks—including the possibility of her actions being misconstrued and the tension of crossing socio-economic divides—but does not dwell on the complexities of homelessness or the philosophical problems of altruism. She does not question whether public recognition is beneficial, or whether it is sufficient for the recipient to realize the extent of what has been done. With the assistance of People human-interest writer Tresniowski (Tiger Virtues, 2005, etc.), Schroff adheres to a personal narrative that traces her troubled relationship with her father, her meetings with Maurice and his background, all while avoiding direct parallels, noting that their childhoods differed in severity even if they shared similar emotional voids. With feel-good dramatizations, the story seldom transcends the message that reaching out makes a difference. It is framed in simple terms, from attributing the first meeting to “two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams” that were “somehow meant to be friends” to the conclusion that love is a driving force. Admirably, Schroff notes that she did not seek a role as a “substitute parent,” and she does not judge Maurice’s mother for her lifestyle. That both main figures experience a few setbacks yet eventually survive is never in question; the story fittingly concludes with an epilogue by Maurice. For readers seeking an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter.


Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4251-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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