Heartfelt, endearing, and, most significantly, a vital historical record of a Southern town.



A West Virginia woman remembers growing up in a tough coal mining community in this memoir.

“Current day Minden is a small and economically depressed community of homes,” remarks Frazer. Yet during her childhood, this small mining town, some 50 miles southeast of Charleston, West Virginia, was a hive of activity. The author captures Minden in the 1940s and ’50s, the end of the boomtown era, a time when she was still in school. Frazer, youngest of seven brothers and sisters—after Squeaky, Charles, Robert, John, Sue, and Ann—is known as “Sissy Crone.” She writes of growing up in Minden: “The vibrant wildflowers gave us beauty, the church gave us faith, and the miners represented work ethics.” This ability to find beauty and positivity in a place that others referred to as a “hole” permeates the book. This is a record of a bygone way of life, a time when the boys beat the girls at marbles but the girls outplayed them at jacks. Frazer effortlessly captures the naiveté of childhood. Instances such as when she innocently asks her mother why their neighbor Maggie has a red light in the window should make readers’ hearts melt. Reverence of the hardworking, blue-collar father figure is palpable: “He always has a tidy appearance. He is not a big frame man, but his body is tough as a rock from the years of mining coal.” Yet this is a broader celebration of the love and tenacity of the American working-class family and the tightly knit community in which it is housed. Frazer’s (A Walk Through Minden, 2016) writing style is uncomplicated, matter-of-fact, and laden with aphorisms: “Daddy says that you can’t live in fear because it can eat away at you. He and Mama say we should be grateful for what we have.” This is by no means a criticism, as the author’s plain language mirrors her subject faithfully. This is an important book, as it forms a record of everyday life that would otherwise be lost with the passage of generations. Illustrated with photographs throughout, the account offers stories that have a cumulative emotional power, vividly evoking mid-20th-century life in a remote mining town.

Heartfelt, endearing, and, most significantly, a vital historical record of a Southern town.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5462-2656-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet