The sap flows heavily in this book about mothers who are heroes, role models, guardian angels and superwomen.

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A LETTER TO MY MOM

A collection for readers who admire or can relate to those who wholly revere their selfless, sainted mothers.

A note that Erspamer (A Letter to My Cat: Notes to Our Best Friends, 2014, etc.), the former executive vice president of programming and development for the Oprah Winfrey Network, wrote to her mother sets the tone for this carefully curated assortment of letters intended to inspire and entertain. The contributors—distinguished and prominent people in their fields—all turned out well-adjusted and happy (neurotics need not apply). Unfortunately, the author includes no insolent voice or anyone who had a more complicated or disappointing relationship with his or her mother. Worse, much of the writing is mawkish or just plain bad: “Though your grip was weakening that night in the hospital, your hands demonstrated an incredible work ethic”; "Thank you for being the most AMAZING Grandmama in the whole world!" Singer Josh Groban's letter is atypical, self-deprecating and comic ("I was odd, I was hyper and sometimes I spoke in my native Martian tongue") in its expression of gratitude for his mother's forbearance. Actress Mariel Hemingway (of the legendarily dysfunctional Hemingway clan) is a welcome tonic, offering a unique sentiment in this book full of repetitive romanticism as she expresses sorrow for her depressive, alcoholic mother's sadness with honesty and comfort: "You had too much invested in the hurt, which became your life." Most readers likely have a more balanced, and perhaps unpleasant, view of their mothers; this is a warm bath of a book that, for some readers, will inspire rueful and sardonic laughter. Other contributors include Kristin Chenoweth, will.i.am, Cat Cora, Monica Lewinsky, Dr. Phil McGraw, Suze Orman, Kelly Osbourne and Shania Twain.

The sap flows heavily in this book about mothers who are heroes, role models, guardian angels and superwomen.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3967-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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