A sweet-hearted account of the author’s adventures, as well as a reasoned critique of institutional shortcomings.



For the sake of his son, duck-out-of-water New York Times writer Applebome (Dixie Rising, 1996) joins the Boy Scout ranks.

They were living in Atlanta when Ben decided he wanted to become a Tiger Scout. Applebome, a “committed indoorsman” who grew up during an era when the Scouts were hopelessly uncool, if not borderline fascists had misgivings, but he loved his kid, and his kid appeared to love Scouting. So when the family moved north to Chappaqua, New York, Applebome appreciated that joining the Boy Scouts would smooth the transition for Ben. He started to volunteer his time and soon came to respect the fundamental decency and sense of inclusion in the troop, the noncompetitive way it brought kids together. With light, dry wit, he recounts his fumbling attempts to canoe, camp, and hike in winter, while he takes the psychic measure of the boys and adults (“volunteers who do it for various benign, charitable, inscrutable, or suspect reasons”). Applebome is equally concerned with the vices, virtues, and vicissitudes of the Boy Scout organization, so he delves into the backgrounds and worldviews of Robert Baden-Powell, Ernest Thompson Seton, and Daniel Carter Beard; the evolution of the Scout Handbook ethics; the usurpation of the organization by religious and conservative elements; and the recent rulings against gays and atheists. The rights of free association notwithstanding, Applebome finds those rulings counter to the spirit of the Scouts, another example of the disconnect between the national bureaucracy and local troops. In Chappaqua, Scouting is still all about campfires, self- sufficiency, fairness, tolerance, friends, good acts, and fun, with discrimination impossibly remote. “In the end what was admirable and worthy about Scouting seemed far more important than what was stupid and narrow about it,” writes Applebome, though he has a number of suggestions on how to reinvigorate the national organization.

A sweet-hearted account of the author’s adventures, as well as a reasoned critique of institutional shortcomings.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-100592-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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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.


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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