Warmly ruminative and honestly observant. Witty, unforced humor rescues passages that might be boring in another writer’s...

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A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER'S PEAKBAGGING ADVENTURE

A mother and her young daughter bond through hiking.

When Herr and her husband bought a weekend home in the mountains, the author learned of the Four Thousand Footer Club, a group of “peakbaggers” who have climbed all 48 mountains in the New Hampshire Whites, whose summits rise above 4,000 feet. She proposed to her 5-year-old daughter Alex, a precocious and energetic nature lover, that they attempt the club together, and she immediately agreed. The author clearly states her parenting philosophy—“children should be met where they’re at, intellectually and otherwise”—and she presents her daughter as a fully formed person with her own capabilities and goals that drive her enterprise, rather than as a cute little body along for the ride and some comic relief. Like most nature-adventure memoirs, this one leverages ready-made life metaphors, which Herr captures effectively and sincerely, if a bit predictably. Herr divides the chapters into life lessons learned from experiences on the trail: “Know What You’re Getting Into,” “Ignore the Naysayers,” “Mistakes Have Serious Consequences,” etc. The latter chapter, about how Herr’s husband lost his legs to frostbite from being trapped for three days in subzero temperatures (see Alison Osius’ Second Ascent for the full story), lends additional weight to the story. After 15 months of peakbagging, Alex reached her final summit; by this time she was a minor celebrity in the local hiking community. Herr’s prose sufficiently captures the joy of being on the trail, though perhaps not forcefully enough to make converts out of city slickers. More than anything, the narrative serves as an apt landscape for a mother to reflect on her choices and on her struggle with how to explain life’s unfairness (sexism, cruelty of nature, distrust of strangers) to her daughter while continuing to nurture the innocent joys of fleeting childhood.

Warmly ruminative and honestly observant. Witty, unforced humor rescues passages that might be boring in another writer’s hands.

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95207-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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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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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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