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 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. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after...


Self-help advice and personal reflections on avoiding spousal fights while raising children.

Before her daughter was born, bestselling author Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, 2009, etc.) enjoyed steady work and a happy marriage. However, once she became a mother, there never seemed to be enough time, sleep, and especially help from her husband. Little irritations became monumental obstacles between them, which led to major battles. Consequently, they turned to expensive couples' therapy to help them regain some peace in life. In a combination of memoir and advice that can be found in most couples' therapy self-help books, Dunn provides an inside look at her own vexing issues and the solutions she and her husband used to prevent them from appearing in divorce court. They struggled with age-old battles fought between men and women—e.g., frequency of sex, who does more housework, who should get up with the child in the middle of the night, why women need to have a clean house, why men need more alone time, and many more. What Dunn learned via therapy, talks with other parents, and research was that there is no perfect solution to the many dynamics that surface once couples become parents. But by using time-tested techniques, she and her husband learned to listen, show empathy, and adjust so that their former status as a happy couple could safely and peacefully morph into a happy family. Readers familiar with Dunn's honest and humorous writing will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at her own semi-messy family life, and those who need guidance through the rough spots can glean advice while being entertained—all without spending lots of money on couples’ therapy.

A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after the birth of their child.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26710-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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