A Studs Terkellike approach—brief, topically organized excerpts from many interviews—on the experience of losing a parent as a child or adolescent. Simon (Women's Studies/City College of San Francisco) and Drantell (a San Franciscobased writer and book editor) are best here in an introductory chapter and ``coda'' that relate reactions to their own childhood and adolescent losses (Simon, a father at age 17; Drantell, a mother at age 11) and emotional journeys in compiling the material for this book. Their 70 interviewees cover an impressive cross-cultural and inter-generational range, and yield some fascinating insights about how not only the subjects, but also the surviving parent, siblings, other relatives, peers, and neighbors, reacted to such a cataclysmic loss. For example, a 61-year-old man who lost his mother and father two years apart in the early 1950s recalls, ``There was no discussion of grieving. . . . I was just a working-class kid. We didn't talk, we stuffed it in.'' Conversely, other interviewees, particularly those who came of age after about 1965, feel that the experience of early parental loss could be talked about, and also that it matured and deepened them emotionally; as one woman in her 30s put it, her father's death when she was 11 ``made me more open to life, made me want to take it on more fully. Because you touch something that's in the marrow. You cut through a lot of superficiality and are more sensitive to things.'' In general, however, the panoramic approach that Terkel applied to sweeping historical events such as the Depression and WW II doesn't work as well for an experience as highly personal as a parent's death. Here, the reader needs to be introduced to both the deceased parent and the interviewee in greater depth than the several short excerpts from a far longer interview provided here. (The reader also learns only about the interviewees' first name, current age, and age when they lost a parent; inexplicably, only those who are writers or otherwise artists are identified by their profession or vocation.) In addition, the authors see fit to provide brief general comments as an introduction to each topical subsection; unfortunately, their words are rarely illuminating and at times hackneyed (e.g., ``As grown-up orphans, if we know one thing, we know death is inevitable. At different times in our lives, we experience the inevitability differently''). Largely because of its methodology, Simon and Drantell's mosaic oral history ultimately lacks sufficient reflective or imaginative depth and emotional force. However, it should prove comforting and perhaps helpful to those who have lost, or are about to lose, a parent in childhood or adolescence, as well as to their immediate relatives.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-81319-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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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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