GRAND CANYON CELEBRATION

A FATHER-SON JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

Another I-survived-the-Grand-Canyon memoir, but one with a twist. Patton, a sociologist well known among social-service workers for his writings on program evaluation and research, seems not to have met a New Age idea that he doesn’t like. Through the pages of this well-written book, he tests many of those ideas on his 18-year-old son, with whom he undertook a coming-of-age backpacking journey into the heart of the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Using the voyage as a means of talking about life’s big questions is an old strategy—in the instance of the Grand Canyon, we’ve already got William Calvin’s The River That Flows Uphill, a meditation on neuroscience and evolution—but Patton gives it a fresh turn with his apparent innocence and willingness to question anything and everything. Readers of a hard-nosed, hardcore wilderness-experience bent won’t much like Patton’s constant adverting to core New Age texts like Robert Bly’s Iron John and C.G. Jung’s Myth and Symbol, his readiness to bang bongo drums and press innocent animals into service as totems for his latter-day vision quest, but they’re not Patton’s core audience. Instead, he seems to be writing for men who are at something of a loss as to how to talk to their teenage sons, and in this matter he is a sympathetic and reassuring guide who sets a wise and reflective example. In one passage, for instance, Patton writes of watching his son sleep after a hard day of scrambling through broken rock and deep gorges and becoming “deeply conscious of how few extended and uninterrupted conversations we had had in his whole life. Times when TV didn’t force us to fit whatever dialogue we could into the space of commercials. Times when the telephone didn’t interrupt.” Fortunately for Patton, he was able to make time for those conversations, and it’s a pleasure to eavesdrop. File this under parenting, not outdoor adventure.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-57392-266-8

Page Count: 330

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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 highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after...

HOW NOT TO HATE YOUR HUSBAND AFTER KIDS

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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