MARRIAGE CONFIDENTIAL

THE POST-ROMANTIC AGE OF WORKHORSE WIVES, ROYAL CHILDREN, UNDERSEXED SPOUSES, AND REBEL COUPLES

The question that engages historian Haag—what’s happening to the institution of marriage—gets a complicated and sometimes murky answer.

The author, former director of research for the American Association of University Women, interviewed dozens of people, conducted online surveys and perused scholarly literature and contemporary newspapers and magazines to discover what marriage means to people today. As her subtitle indicates, her view is that society has entered the post-romantic marriage era. The romantic paradigm of marriage, in which marriage was entered into for love, is being replaced by a new cultural view, just as traditional marriage, in which marriage was needed for status and procreation, was replaced by the romantic view. In this post-romantic era, she finds that low-conflict, low-stress, semi-happy marriages are common, and she proposes that alternative ways of thinking about marriage are needed. Through the stories of individuals whom she calls marriage pioneers, she illustrates some of the pressures exerted by such factors as work, parenting and sex, and shows how some couples are changing the rules and choosing to look at and handle such matters differently. For example, where monogamy was central to the romantic marriage, in the post-romantic marriage, extramarital affairs are often no longer regarded as deal breakers; where romantic marriage was presumably “til death do us part,” the post-romantic marriage may be term-limited. Post-romantic spouses may be more like best friends or congenial companions, and rather than constituting a twosome, may be part of a more open network of colleagues. In other words, in this post-romantic era, marriage may be losing its special place and becoming more like other kinds of relationships in people’s lives. Haag’s use of couple’s stories (including some from her own marriage) to illustrate trends makes the book an easy read with a low jargon quotient, and readers looking for parallels to their own marital situations may well find them here. Despite a title that seems ripped from a tabloid, this is a serious examination of contemporary marriage and a fruitful source of discussion material for women’s groups.

 

Pub Date: May 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-171928-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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AN INVISIBLE THREAD

THE TRUE STORY OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD PANHANDLER, A BUSY SALES EXECUTIVE, AND AN UNLIKELY MEETING WITH DESTINY

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

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4251-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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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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