This volume recording one family’s history should strike a responsive chord among those caring for aged loved ones.




The six offspring of a Vermont couple celebrate their parents’ devotion to family, religion, and a rigorous work ethic in this debut memoir.

When Jeannette and Bob Clavelle died two years apart after a marriage of more than 60 years, they had little of monetary value to pass on to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. But they left behind a rich legacy of love, honor, and strong family ties. Both parents—who were Roman Catholics—were descended from French Canadians who immigrated to Winooski, Vermont, in the early quarter of the 20th century. The American Woolen Mill provided jobs and security for the working class, and Winooski became a bilingual, French Canadian enclave. The siblings grew up surrounded by two sets of loving grandparents and within the arms of a tight community. Bob, who co-owned a grocery store, was an outgoing charmer. He was never wealthy but always generous. He also had a serious problem with alcohol for a good part of his adult life. The bulk of the narrative focuses on Bob and Jeannette’s later years, after retirement, when they began to endure the vagaries of old age. There are many trips to the hospital, the rehab center, and finally the nursing home. Although the workmanlike account is weighed down with details of illnesses, there are some touching passages that involve Bob tirelessly caring for Jeannette at home. The authors also pepper the memoir with some lighthearted anecdotes, such as Bob’s struggles with a computer his kids bought to keep him connected with “modern” life. He complained that his email wouldn’t work after he “set up” his passwords: “When I try to type them in, all I get is a string of asterisks.” The most heart-rending sections—and yet in some ways the most helpful to those who are dealing with aging family members—present the elaborate details of trying to ensure the well-being of parents who have been fiercely independent throughout their lives and now need the help of others.

This volume recording one family’s history should strike a responsive chord among those caring for aged loved ones.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4834-5835-9

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2017

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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

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.


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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