A cheeky, amusing motherhood memoir.

READ REVIEW

KETCHUP IS A VEGETABLE

AND OTHER LIES MOMS TELL THEMSELVES

An inside look at mothering three small children.

For most parents, O'Bryant’s (A Second Helping: A Collection of Popular Columns, 2013, etc.) humorous, offbeat and nonglitzy examination of her life as a mother of three girls will feel normal. Readers without children may wonder how the human race has survived as long as it has. Babies, breast-feeding and boobs play major roles in the narrative. "I have a fascination and fixation with boobs, not just my own,” writes the author. “I am enthralled by your boobs just as much as I am my very own." Her Big Berthas feature prominently in many of the sassy and outrageous moments she relates, whether trying to breast-feed her youngest daughter in the family car or the struggles she had to feed her first newborn, who refused to latch on. O'Bryant brings the nitty-gritty, often taboo subjects of personal body functions to new heights as sweat, body fat and vomit all play roles—as does poop, whether from a child or adult, in all its various shapes, sizes and moments of expulsion. Whether going shopping, attending PTA meetings, or traveling long distances to visit family and friends, each episode is full of the unconventional behavior of three rambunctious daughters and the mother who struggles to keep pace. Although the baby talk of her daughters is age-appropriate, some readers may tire of some of the childish speech—e.g., "But Momma, I wub her, and I want to pway wif her.” Nonetheless, these behind-the-scenes observations of one woman's version of motherhood dispel the oftentimes gussied-up descriptions of blissfully raising a child while providing much-needed comic relief for other parents struggling to survive. “All the screaming, dirty diapers, tantrum throwing, and sleepless nights are worth it,” writes the author. “It is worth every heartache and tear we shed as mothers.”

 A cheeky, amusing motherhood memoir.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05414-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

DAD'S MAYBE BOOK

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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