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As Good as I Could Be


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About the Author

Susan Cheever is the bestselling author of thirteen previous books, including five novels and the memoirs Note Found in a Bottle and Home Before Dark. Her work has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Boston Globe Winship Medal. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a member of the Corporation of Yaddo, and a member of the Author's Guild Council. She teaches in the Bennington College M.F.A. program. She lives in New York City with her family.


Those who look to Cheever's memoirs (Home Before Dark; Note Found in a Bottle) for insights into her father, writer John Cheever, will find this book disappointing. This parenting guide-cum-memoir, based on her weekly New York Newsday columns, focuses instead on her life as a single mom bringing up two good kids her son, James, and daughter, Liley (age 10 and 18, respectively, when she completed the book) despite divorces from each of their fathers, alcoholism and a host of other problems. Cheever's honest, realistic approach to the difficulties of parenting is refreshing, as is her optimistic belief that people can be good parents despite their own unhappy childhoods. At times the book is repetitive (too many descriptions of how great her kids are). While many of her suggestions are sensible it's important to listen to our children others fall short of the mark. She denigrates the value of therapy for children, for instance, despite her own kids' problems (her son is depressed and her daughter has an eating disorder). Working parents who don't have the luxury of flex time may disagree with her blanket rejection of quality time in favor of spending more time with kids. Some essays, like the one on not worrying about what college your child gets into, seem condescending given that Liley is a freshman at Princeton. As a parenting guide, Cheever's is woefully incomplete, but at its best, it is pleasurable, not unlike whiling away a few hours with an encouraging friend, albeit one who brags too much about her kids. Forecast: Cheever's previous books have sold well and have won her name recognition. This one may attract a literary readership intrigued and perhaps impressed by the fact that someone from such a famously dysfunctional family has written a parenting guide. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Noted author and mother Cheever (daughter of the great American writer John Cheever) reflects on the importance of motherhood and tells us what having children has meant in her own life. Although not a how-to manual for raising children, Cheever's memoir will encourage readers in their efforts to follow their own paths in parenting. Cheever talks about her mistakes (e.g., she battled alcoholism for many years, recounted in Note Found in a Bottle, which led to her daughter's health problems) and how she corrects them; she also analyzes her successes, which she attributes to establishing authority in the parent-child relationship. This sense of authority, which is at the core of Cheever's philosophy on parenting, is not absolute and autocratic but rather comes from the belief that parents must leave their childhood behind and become adults in their relationships with their children. This sensitive and touching narrative will appeal to a broad range of readers. Recommended for most libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/01.] Kay Brodie, Chesapeake Coll., Wye Mills, MD Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Los Angles Herald Examiner Out of the pain of real life, Susan Cheever has created a document that is ultimately a paean to family love.
Philadelphia Inquirer It is Cheever's ability to dive suddenly from the surface to the deeper places of the soul.
The New York Times Book Review Cheever's writing has true resonance.

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