Well-crafted, heart-wrenching, and courageous poems about love and pain.

SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS

A DAUGHTER’S JOURNEY WITH HER FATHER THROUGH DEMENTIA IN SONNETS

A daughter remembers her father, his dementia, and their last times together in this collection of poetry.

The morning of the day she received the call informing her that her father had died, Dargis was inspired to write a sonnet about caregiving. Her father developed dementia after experiencing a serious fall, which was followed by a rapid decline in his health. The book is divided into two parts, with the first section recalling his period of rehabilitation in a hospital. The second portion recounts his time in hospice. The collection’s title refers to the parting phrase the author spoke to her father when visiting hours ended. Dargis’ poetry captures a broad range of aspects of life as a caregiver to an elderly parent. The opening poem, “A Contradiction,” effortlessly depicts the brutal reality of dementia: “Not known for its precision. Like an old / Timex ticking well enough, but still not / Ready to cease.” The volume describes her father’s moments of unexpected lucidity, other patients on his ward, and his gradual slipping away: “I missed him, even though I was with him.” Dargis’ sonnets plainly describe the everyday experiences and fluctuating anxieties of a caregiver, as in “The Time Traveler”: “James, the nurse, came in with the / Blood pressure machine. It was lower than / Normal. Could he be in a state?” She is nevertheless acutely aware of the toll that these experiences have on her and that she must fortify herself, as demonstrated in “Sparring With Pugs,” an example of her understated yet impactful use of imagery: “I slip my mind into the mottled glove / And tighten the strings.” This is a deeply personal document, and those unacquainted with the poet’s family are left to guess the identities of individuals mentioned throughout: “Roger and Shirley smiled. / I bowed to Tamiko.” This does not detract significantly from the volume’s wider appeal, as Dargis succeeds in exploring the spectrum of emotions felt by all caregivers, from hope to resignation. Offering a list of caregiver resources at its close, this tenderly observed and moving collection will particularly resonate with poetry lovers faced with similarly challenging circumstances.

Well-crafted, heart-wrenching, and courageous poems about love and pain.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 54

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

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THE BEST OF ME

A welcome greatest-hits package from Sedaris.

It’s not easy to pick out fact from fiction in the author’s sidelong takes on family, travel, relationships, and other topics. He tends toward the archly droll in either genre, both well represented in this gathering, always with a perfectly formed crystallization of our various embarrassments and discomforts. An example is a set piece that comes fairly early in the anthology: the achingly funny “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” with its spot-on reminiscence of taking a French class with a disdainful instructor, a roomful of clueless but cheerful students, and Sedaris himself, who mangles the language gloriously, finally coming to understand his teacher’s baleful utterances (“Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section”) without being able to reply in any way that does not destroy the language of Voltaire and Proust. Sedaris’ register ranges from doggerel to deeply soulful, as when he reflects on the death of a beloved sibling and its effects on a family that has been too often portrayed as dysfunctional when it’s really just odd: “The word,” he writes, “is overused….My father hoarding food inside my sister’s vagina would be dysfunctional. His hoarding it beneath the bathroom sink, as he is wont to do, is, at best, quirky and at worst unsanitary.” There’s not a dud in the mix, though Sedaris is always at his best when he’s both making fun of himself and satirizing some larger social trend (of dog-crazy people, for instance: “They’re the ones who, when asked if they have children, are likely to answer, ‘A black Lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe’ ”). It’s a lovely mélange by a modern Mark Twain who is always willing to set himself up as a shlemiel in the interest of a good yarn.

One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-62824-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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