A notable, inspirational story of hardship and survival.

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The Survivor, The Hero & The Angel

A MOTHER'S STORY - ONE DECADE

Raccosta’s remarkable family memoir recounts and reflects on caring for two sons battling a rare, life-threatening illness.

In 1999 and 2000, doctors told the author that her infant sons, James and Sam, had inherited a rare genetic disorder, tri-functional protein deficiency. James, meanwhile, was also suffering from an  unrelated rare liver disorder. As Raccosta struggled to understand the complex diagnoses, Dr. Elizabeth Rand of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a pediatric liver disease specialist, told her that James might have been the sixth diagnosed case in the world to suffer from both diseases. James endured two liver transplants and countless other hospitalizations and surgeries, and he suffered a cardiac arrest that left him brain-damaged. His spitfire younger brother, Sam, endured his own round of life-threatening incidents. Both children required continuous intestinal feeding pumps and regular blood sugar checks, as well as the usual infant care. The entire family spent more time at CHOP than at home, and the author’s healthy daughter Gabrielle grew accustomed to her mother’s absence; for Raccosta, the situation became a major source of anxiety as she missed family holidays and many of her daughter’s milestones. The author’s riveting storytelling, original poems and light humor set her story apart from many other parenting memoirs. The author expresses her anger and frustration and questions God about her family’s situation, but she also maintains a healthy, empathetic perspective, and her recognition of her blessings keeps her, and her story, from plummeting into despair. Much of the memoir centers on hospital visits and caregiving, but Raccosta also shares how she and her husband sustained one another and learned to lean on friends and family to get through an unimaginable decade. The Raccostas not only survive, but thrive, in this eloquent family love story.

A notable, inspirational story of hardship and survival.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475032062

Page Count: 302

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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 miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

DAD'S MAYBE BOOK

Ruminations and reminiscences of an author—now in his 70s—about fatherhood, writing, and death.

O’Brien (July, July, 2002, etc.), who achieved considerable literary fame with both Going After Cacciato (1978) and The Things They Carried (1990), returns with an eclectic assembly of pieces that grow increasingly valedictory as the idea of mortality creeps in. (The title comes from the author’s uncertainty about his ability to assemble these pieces in a single volume.) He begins and ends with a letter: The initial one is to his first son (from 2003); the terminal one, to his two sons, both of whom are now teens (the present). Throughout the book, there are a number of recurring sections: “Home School” (lessons for his sons to accomplish), “The Magic Show” (about his long interest in magic), and “Pride” (about his feelings for his sons’ accomplishments). O’Brien also writes often about his own father. One literary figure emerges as almost a member of the family: Ernest Hemingway. The author loves Hemingway’s work (except when he doesn’t) and often gives his sons some of Papa’s most celebrated stories to read and think and write about. Near the end is a kind of stand-alone essay about Hemingway’s writings about war and death, which O’Brien realizes is Hemingway’s real subject. Other celebrated literary figures pop up in the text, including Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Marvell, George Orwell, and Flannery O’Connor. Although O’Brien’s strong anti-war feelings are prominent throughout, his principal interest is fatherhood—specifically, at becoming a father later in his life and realizing that he will miss so much of his sons’ lives. He includes touching and amusing stories about his toddler sons, about the sadness he felt when his older son became a teen and began to distance himself, and about his anguish when his sons failed at something.

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-618-03970-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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