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RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

FOUR COUPLES AND AMERICAN MARRIAGE TODAY

An absorbing look at the complicated, ever-changing institution of marriage. New Yorker staff writer Harris (Holy Days, not reviewed) brings a journalist's eye for detail and a graceful style to this account of four very different married couples who had one thing in common from the start: ``Nothing in their premarital thoughts had in the least prepared them for the reality of wedded life.'' The first couple, well-to-do, illustrates at nearly every turn the received wisdom that much marital difficulty revolves around moneywith the refreshing twist that in this instance it is the husband who (in his wife's words) ``had no sense of budget, and no sense of constraint.'' Harris's second case study, a working-class couple, struggles to survive without much education and without much money, dissolving and reuniting, reassuring themselves that ``things weren't so bad,'' trying as best they can to make do in an uneasy world. The third, and most interesting, couple is middle- class and African-American, each partner blessed with a long view and a keenly developed, sometimes ironic sense of the way things work: ``The hippie phenomenon fascinated [the husband]. He was amazed that young white kids could check out of the system, then casually check back in three or four years later. . . . Black kids, he says, could never behave like that.'' The final couple, bohemian with a studied vengeance, has matured gracefully through the era of open marriage to a conception of life as something other than a playground. Harris pretends to no grand theory, and she is pleasingly candid, as when she admits to a certain surprise at the one element that her subjects share in their daily lives: ``Everyone worked terribly hard all the time, and . . . rarely got a chance to come up for air.'' Despite such burdens, Harris's four married couples endure through better and worse, making this a useful survival manual for newlyweds.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80826-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1995

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THE ESCAPE ARTIST

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. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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STRONG MOTHERS, STRONG SONS

LESSONS MOTHERS NEED TO RAISE EXTRAORDINARY MEN

Solid, practical advice for women on how to properly nurture their sons.

How women can raise boys to become good men.

More than ever, women are under pressure to be "everything to everyone," writes Meeker (The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity, 2010, etc.), as "working women feel that they must perform equally well both in the office and in caring for their home, husband, and children." The dynamics of raising boys is especially difficult for women due to the gender difference and the fact that women tend to be nurturing and helpful while allowing their sons to evolve into men in a constantly shifting masculine paradigm. Through research and interviews from her own practice, Meeker gives women the necessary tools to understand that perfection is not a realistic goal but that doing the best one can will ensure good results. Equally useful to single mothers and women with husbands is the advice that sons need to know they are loved from a very young age, as this builds a foundation of confidence in a child, a base that allows a boy to gradually move away from his mother as he interacts with male peers and elders. A boy's home life must be solid: a safe haven to return to regardless of his age, a place where his thoughts and feelings are respected and where he can express his hopes and dreams without fear of judgment. Meeker recommends introducing boys to religion, prayer and the unconditional love that comes from having a strong faith to boost self-confidence. She also skillfully navigates the world of sex—from a boy's first body awareness to the powerful effects of pornography and sexual messages embedded in social media, video games and news media, to his interactions in the world of girls and women. A mother's imprint on her son is powerful right from birth and remains so throughout her son's life. Meeker's advice gives women the tools to navigate these often rocky waters with confidence.

Solid, practical advice for women on how to properly nurture their sons.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-51809-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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