An enjoyable exploration of baseball, fatherhood, and how “there’s something special about the way families share the game.”

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THE DAD REPORT

FATHERS, SONS, AND BASEBALL FAMILIES

Stories of fathers, their sons, and a way forward for the troubled game of baseball.

Some of the shine has worn off of the sport in recent years. Major League Baseball has dealt with ongoing concerns about performance-enhancing drugs and has seriously considered changing some of the rules of the game to make it more fast-paced—a response to shrinking revenues. Fewer people want to be taken out to the old ball game. It wasn’t always so, however, and Cook (Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America, 2014, etc.) explores stories of the sport’s connections in families, starting with his own. Cook’s father, Art, supported his son’s early forays into baseball. A minor league pitcher, Art, sporting a wicked screwball, had been “this close” to a big league career. The author discusses his father striking him out at a community game and the impact it had on his perception of himself years later. Cook also examines how in baseball families—from the Griffeys to the Boones—fathers help sons grow into the game and discover their best paths within it. The author marinates his tales in the details of the game, presenting statistics alongside nostalgic descriptions of late summer afternoons, sunshine-bathed fields, and do-or-die ninth-inning gambits. It’s not all sunshine, however. Cook also reflects on some of the darker stories, like that of Barry Bonds, wondering how great his career would have been without the performance-enhancing drugs—and without his father’s shadow hanging over him. On the whole, though, the author writes to enshrine the best aspects of baseball, combining a father’s love of the game with a love for the son.

An enjoyable exploration of baseball, fatherhood, and how “there’s something special about the way families share the game.”

Pub Date: June 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24600-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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