Boyce effectively reveals that whether orchid or dandelion, there is no such thing as “unbreakable children.”




A renowned pediatrician uncovers what makes children thrive.

It’s an age-old question: Are we the product of nature or nurture? For Boyce (Pediatrics and Psychology/Univ. of California, San Francisco), the co-director of the Child and Brain Development Program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the topic of human frailty has been more than just his field of study; it’s his calling. As he writes, his interest in the subject developed after watching his brilliant sister Mary succumb to psychotic symptoms marked by “hearing hostile, venomous voices and periods of catatonia.” How could two siblings who grew up in the same comfortable, safe environment with loving parents end up with such different life outcomes? One possibility: “a single, seemingly unerring environment is in fact not the same for each individual child.” Thus the concept of orchid and dandelion children was born. Orchids are those who, due to special susceptibility, may struggle through life, while dandelions seemingly thrive no matter their circumstances. Boyce argues that being an orchid is not all bad; given the right circumstances, orchids’ special sensitivities and strengths can result in remarkable gifts. “The very orchid children most likely to suffer and wilt when subjected to bad environments,” writes the author, “are the same children most likely to flourish, succeed, and prosper in settings of nurturance and care.” Citing exhaustive research studies conducted throughout his career, Boyce paints a compelling picture of how early childhood development and genetic makeup impact human life. Naturally, the book is full of medicalese, but for every set of data, the author backs up his work with conversational anecdotes, and his natural storytelling ability helps guide the book through the complex scientific sections. Though the book occasionally feels like a piece for a medical journal, the author’s findings are absorbing enough to keep readers engaged.

Boyce effectively reveals that whether orchid or dandelion, there is no such thing as “unbreakable children.”

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94656-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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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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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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