Angels Passing Through


Mastrantuono’s debut memoir explores his experience growing up in a family that fostered dozens of babies.
In the politically and socially tumultuous late 1960s, Mastrantuono’s family was already sizable: In addition to his two biological siblings, his parents also adopted four children of diverse ethnicities. Remarkably, his parents made the decision to add to these numbers by fostering babies in need—not just a few, either. In a span of 10 years, the Mastrantuono family fostered more than 40 babies. In addition to their own schoolwork, friends and puberty, the children also had to diaper, feed, burp, bathe and soothe infants on an almost daily basis. Mastrantuono details his experience as a foster sibling to this multitude of babies and the indelible impact they had on his life. He also recounts the sometimes-heartbreaking stories of five particularly memorable foster children, including Denise, who stayed with his family for slightly less than two years and was ultimately taken from them despite their many petitions to adopt her. Although Mastrantuono’s childhood experiences will seem extraordinary to many, he describes them with clarity and illuminating detail. In fact, his memories are so unusual that readers may regret the book’s brevity; it’s less than 100 pages, after all. Although Mastrantuono interviewed his family and studied diary entries, few direct quotes are included, though they could have provided more insight. However, Mastrantuono excels at describing his own memories and helping readers understand not only why his parents chose to undertake such a momentous task, but also the effects, not always positive, their fostering had on the family as a whole. Mastrantuono delves a bit into the self-examination process he has undergone to deal with emotional issues, such as the void created by Denise’s absence and the fact that, as a foster family, they rarely learned what happened to the babies after they left. Although these instances can seem like personal exercises at times, they nevertheless inform and enrich Mastrantuono’s story, one that will no doubt inspire contemplation and discussion.
Short and bittersweet, this memoir offers a unique perspective on the foster care system and the reverberating effects on those within it.

Pub Date: May 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496064011

Page Count: 96

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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 highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after...


Self-help advice and personal reflections on avoiding spousal fights while raising children.

Before her daughter was born, bestselling author Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, 2009, etc.) enjoyed steady work and a happy marriage. However, once she became a mother, there never seemed to be enough time, sleep, and especially help from her husband. Little irritations became monumental obstacles between them, which led to major battles. Consequently, they turned to expensive couples' therapy to help them regain some peace in life. In a combination of memoir and advice that can be found in most couples' therapy self-help books, Dunn provides an inside look at her own vexing issues and the solutions she and her husband used to prevent them from appearing in divorce court. They struggled with age-old battles fought between men and women—e.g., frequency of sex, who does more housework, who should get up with the child in the middle of the night, why women need to have a clean house, why men need more alone time, and many more. What Dunn learned via therapy, talks with other parents, and research was that there is no perfect solution to the many dynamics that surface once couples become parents. But by using time-tested techniques, she and her husband learned to listen, show empathy, and adjust so that their former status as a happy couple could safely and peacefully morph into a happy family. Readers familiar with Dunn's honest and humorous writing will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at her own semi-messy family life, and those who need guidance through the rough spots can glean advice while being entertained—all without spending lots of money on couples’ therapy.

A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after the birth of their child.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26710-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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