The readable, touching story of one family’s struggle and ultimate triumph.



A father gives an honest account of raising his severely disabled son and the tolls it took on his family.

Holton’s heartfelt debut memoir details the unending stress of raising a physically and emotionally disabled son. His young wife, Sandra, had difficulty conceiving their first child, including an excruciatingly prolonged labor. The doctors used a fetal heart monitor, a device so new at the time that they had to consult the owner’s manual. What the parents didn’t know but the heart monitor showed was that the baby had a series of strokes during labor and, following a caesarian section, had to be revived at birth. The unaware parents only gradually realized something was wrong with their child. Young Johnny was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and his early life was a nightmare of seizures and a parade of specialists and tests. As Johnny got older, his angry, violent rages became more frequent, brought on by the “monster within his head.” He also developed a charming but devious personality, escaping from babysitters, hospitals, and even a locked psych ward. Johnny required constant vigilance. His parents rarely got time off and only took one vacation in 22 years; “everything concerning Johnny fell on our shoulders and ours alone.” They also filed lawsuits, clashed with the school system, and resisted suggestions to lock Johnny up permanently. But he only got worse, with “bouts of rage and insanity that had us living on edge constantly.” Just when there seemed to be no hope, a team of doctors proposed a radical “fix”: an amazing feat of neurosurgery that completely transformed their lives. Despite a few typographical miscues—“[Sandra] wouldn’t even take an aspirin during the pregnancy…she didn’t want to harm the baby…why this?”—Holton recounts his memories in a conversational tone, broken up into short anecdotes and frequently lightened by goofy jokes, never letting himself get weighed down by self-pity or anger. While giving comfort and hope to those in similar situations, Holton’s story also provides needed insight into what life is really like for families with disabled children.

The readable, touching story of one family’s struggle and ultimate triumph.

Pub Date: July 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491067246

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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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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

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