by Mitchell Zuckoff ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 21, 2002
A moving testimony to a remarkable family as well as an informative primer on Down’s syndrome.
A meticulously researched, empathetic account, expanded from a series Zuckoff wrote for the Boston Globe, about a young couple’s decision to continue with a pregnancy after they learned the baby had Down’s syndrome.
Though this is a story about one particular couple, the issues raised—the availability of increasingly sophisticated prenatal testing, the option of legal abortion, and society’s response to mental retardation—have wider implications. As he chronicles the challenges faced by grad student Greg Fairchild and wife Tierney Temple-Fairchild, who manages education programs for United Technologies, Zuckoff also comprehensively details attitudes toward and treatment of Down’s syndrome, meets with geneticists and prenatal specialists, talks to family and friends. The account begins in June 1998, when Tierney undergoes a prenatal examination called a triple screen, follow-up to the routine blood test and ultrasound that confirmed her pregnancy in April. The couple does not anticipate any untoward results—31-year-old Tierney is not considered at risk—but results show the baby has a heart defect that might indicate Down’s. As they consult experts, the couple wrestles with the question of abortion. They have about three weeks to decide; Tierney is 21 weeks pregnant, and Connecticut law allows elective abortion only through the 24th week. They must also deal with conflicting advice, her father’s coldness, and their own fears. African-American Greg worries that their child’s disability will expose it to even greater prejudice than its mixed-raced background (Tierney is white). They decide to continue the pregnancy, and Naia is born on November 22. Although she has a relatively moderate form of the syndrome, Naia is frequently ill during the first year of her life as surgeons wait for her to weigh enough to undergo heart surgery. It’s successful, and the couple—smitten like all new parents—begins making a rich, loving life for their exceptional daughter.A moving testimony to a remarkable family as well as an informative primer on Down’s syndrome.
Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2002
Page Count: 312
Publisher: Beacon Press
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002
Share your opinion of this book
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
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011
Share your opinion of this book
by Helen Fremont ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 11, 2020
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
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019
Share your opinion of this book
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!