An absorbing and frank book that chronicles the author’s triumph over health and personal crises.



A debut memoir details the struggles of a wife with ulcerative colitis and infertility.

When Mills H. and her husband, Rob, adopted their Yorkshire terrier puppy, they named him Riley, to fit with the breeder’s preference and to allude to the expression “life of Riley.” The fact Riley also meant “brave” was a happy coincidence. Just a year earlier, the couple had lost their son, Chad, who was stillborn after his mother’s struggle with ulcerative colitis during pregnancy. Determined to have another child—the daughter both the author and her mother-in-law had strong premonitions Mills H. was destined to deliver—the couple tried intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization. Eventually, when Mills H.’s half sister, Michelle, volunteered to be a surrogate carrier, the author leapt at the chance. Finally, she achieved her lifelong dream of motherhood when her daughter, Skylar, was born. Chad’s name means “Warrior” while Skylar means “Protector”—hence, the work’s title. While the memoir primarily focuses on the author’s infertility, her ailments—which contributed significantly to her child-bearing issues—also figure prominently. Additional autobiographical information provides relevant content for her story. All her life, Mills H. looked forward to becoming a homemaker and mother, and she highlights the women in her life who were fortunate enough to have that role. After a false start with a first husband she had to support, the author met and married Rob, a private pilot to celebrities. Of the few secondary characters in the book, Rob remains the most shadowy and one-dimensional, little more than the often traveling spouse. Mills H.’s mother and mother-in-law, and later her half sister, provide the emotional support and care she needs during her trials and are more developed characters. The compelling account does not break new ground in the realm of fertility challenges, but Mills H. is a deeply sympathetic character, although not all readers will identify with her aspiration to be a homemaker. Further, her brushes with celebrity (Thanksgiving and a trip to Greece with Kevin Costner) and her luxurious, golf club community home make her less relatable. Despite her seemingly lavish lifestyle, her medical and fertility problems emphasize her vulnerability.

An absorbing and frank book that chronicles the author’s triumph over health and personal crises.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5353-8112-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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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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