A valuable, compassionate consideration of female elders’ work and worth.

GRANDMOTHERING

BUILDING STRONG TIES WITH EVERY GENERATION

A wide-ranging look at the world of grandmothers and grandmothering.

Berger’s (The Developing Person Through the Life Span, 10th Ed., 2017, etc.) book is a personal, in-depth examination of the many roles that female grandparents can fulfill in a world of overmanaged children with so-called helicopter parents. Grandmothers, she notes, make the “gears of a family mesh…in harmony”: “They help babies sleep, toddlers eat, preschoolers read, school children study, adolescents find themselves, and young adults become happy and successful.” This wasn’t always the case; as the author points out, “As recently as 1970, half the world’s population was under age 22.” Due to a wide variety of factors, including better nutrition, advances in health care, and dropping birth rates, this is no longer true; now “There are many more grandmothers, and many fewer grandchildren, than in prior generations.” In order to help these grandmothers smoothly acclimate to modern family dynamics, Berger offers them humorous, insightful, and often richly autobiographical advice. However, anybody who has living grandparents will find the book compelling as well. She offers useful tips on being a supportive aide to a pregnant granddaughter (or granddaughter-in-law) and on being a reliable source of infant-rearing help. Berger also addresses urgent situations in which a grandparent’s intervention may become necessary. In general, though, she advocates being a “steady anchor” for parents and grandchildren—both intimately connected and “above the fray” while offering invaluable support. Any reader who’s been blessed with a wonderful grandmother may find such notions to be self-evident, but Berger shores up her observations with anecdotes and a great deal of engaging research. Her advice to grandmothers is equally specific, smartly advising them of behaviors to embrace and avoid (“Text, don’t call”).

A valuable, compassionate consideration of female elders’ work and worth.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5381-3313-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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AN INVISIBLE THREAD

THE TRUE STORY OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD PANHANDLER, A BUSY SALES EXECUTIVE, AND AN UNLIKELY MEETING WITH DESTINY

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.

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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