The Escape Artist

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

I didn't really enjoy this book. It felt like the writer was trying very hard to be "mysterious" and kind of skip around, which can work in some cases, but not in this one.
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Very well-written memoir about the author growing up in a dysfunctional family full of mental illness and big-time secrets.  Raised as a Catholic, her discovery that her parents and aunt were instead Jewish holocaust survivors was the subject of her first book — After Long Silence (1999).  The Escape Artist starts with the aftermath of the previous work — estrangement from her family and an invitation to her father’s funeral only to find that she had been cut out of his will with the phrase “as if she had predeceased me.”  The narrative bounces between 1965 and the present (well-labeled and easy to follow) and follows the wild dynamics of a sister who is alternately her best friend and a foaming-at-the-mouth crazy person vowing to kill her.  While the first book uncovers the Catholic / Jewish secret, this book uncovers a second large family secret (which truthfully is not the main purpose of the book and is not over dramatized in any way — it’s just something we find out / figure out near the end).  The primary focus is on her relationship with the family, particularly her sister, and  her own slow self-discovery of the person she wants to be.

I enjoyed reading this book — it was well-written and the characters were deeply portrayed — intentionally from the author’s perspective.  Exactly my kind of memoir where the author makes plain her interior logic, experiences, and even her own doubt as to what actually happened vs what she remembers happening.  My only complaint might be that it was a tad too long — I was ready to be done about 40 pages from the end.  I admit that there is also something that disturbs me about one person writing a memoir that exposes the secrets of others.  There was a good reason her family did not want people to know they were Jewish and I can see being equally unhappy about the family exposure in this book.
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Helen Fremont's memoir The Escape Artist, is the kind of book that draws you in and demands that you pay attention. You know the kind, you can't put it down because you want to know what happens next.

Full Disclosure: I have not read the previous book, but I found this one to be able to stand alone- although I may go back and read the other.

In this memoir Helen Fremont recounts her family history and how it has impacted the lives of not only herself but also her mother, father and sister. She beautifully describes how trauma impacts our ability to relate with the world around us. This is a book about trauma, mental illness and our willingness to engage with the healing our family needs.

It is also a clear picture into the Fremont's hurting heart. As I read the pages of this book I felt how unresolved her pain is here. I hope that she finds healing and she is able to resolve her relationship with her sister. This is one of the most courageous books I have read in recent years. 

The publisher provided an ARC through Netgalley. My honest thoughts and opinions are reflected in this review.
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The Escape Artist by Helen Fremont is a fascinating look at a family that has been greatly effected by the war, secrets, and mental illness.  It is the story of a family and the interactions between them.  There is also interaction with an aunt and uncle that reside in Italy.  This story is nonfiction and the heartbreak felt by all family members is so very sad.  The mother suffers from depression and both daughters suffer from mental illness.  This family’s dysfunction reaches far and wide.   I would highly recommend reading this novel.  Insight into other families challenges gives the reader an appreciation for the heartbreak of others.   I received this novel from Simon and Schuster and netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Fantastic. For me, this was a white-knuckle read. What would be the consequences of telling all? What are the consequences of telling MORE? For dysfunctional siblings everywhere.
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Helen Fremont's story is incredible, though at times, difficult read. You often see books and memoirs described as "searing" and I don't think I ever really understood that until I read this one. "The Escape Artist' unravels two generations of family secrets and their devastating consequences. It was so engrossing that before I even finished it, I'd ordered Fremont's first memoir 'After Long Silence." I'm looking forward to comparing the two. 

Thanks to the publisher for my free copy of 'The Escape Artist'.
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I read this book because it was compared to Educated by Tara Westover. The main similarity is how Fremont’s identity was fashioned by her family and how love and loss seem forever entwined with familial expectations. 

Fremont’s parents were survivors of WWII, but the secrets at the foundation of their relationship prove to be the undoing of the happiness and wellbeing of both of their daughters. Her relationship with her sister and parents is a tangled web that keeps you hooked until the very last page.
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As i ponder this book I find it relevant to today's realities in so many ways.  It is a story about immigration, about the generational evils of war, about refugees, and about the challenge of becoming a person in the midst of all these realities.  The writing is exceptional because the author is measured, perhaps too measured.  I found myself reading about events described dispassionately and then stopping and becoming aware of all the emotions that had to be flowing through those events.  It brought back many memories of my growing up in a house of secrets.  I would recommend this book enthusiastically to just about anyone who cares about our contemporary situation with tens of millions of refugees, including those coming to the US southern border trying to escape the violence in the home countries.   At the end of the day, I find the title a bit perplexing because I think the author didn't escape but rather endured and ultimately survived.
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The Escape Artist is a memoir focused heavily on family dynamics and mental illness. The author manages to convey what could've been an exhausting, angry, and resentful tale into a story full of hope and understanding.

Having grown up in a household full of lies and make believes, I could completely relate to Ms. Fremont's confusion and constant state of alert, not knowing when the other shoe was going to fall. What i could not relate to was her constant need of approval from the people that hurt her the most. but we're all different and react differently.

All in all, it is a good read, but I felt like a lot of questions went unanswered and now I need to read something light and fluffy after this.

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I really enjoyed this follow up memoir about the life of Fremont and her family twisted by secrets. A true tribute to her marvelous ability to engage me as a reader is the fact that I remembered her earlier memoir, “After Long Silence”, so clearly. 

Helen and her sister are raised by unconventional parents in a small town in upstate New York. The secret lives of her parents during WWII is at the heart of the struggle faced by Fremont. With the death of her father and the cruel rejection of his child, the reader can look back on the twisted life of this family. 

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to read another wonderful Fremont memoir. Book clubs, look at this one for your non-fiction selection.
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The author of "After Long Silence" has written a follow-up memoir that fills in the details about her dysfunctional family and her up and down relationship with her older sister,. It starts with the death of her father and the reading of his will, where she finds she has been cut out of being a beneficiary and declared legally dead. As you follow her journey back in time, you begin to see the depth of her difficulties with her family. It is a searing tale and I had to remind myself that this wasn't fictional, it was almost too far-fetched. The suffering and torment and psychological damage to her and her sister is quite devastating, yet her descriptions are vivid and ring true. This isn't a book for everyone, and can be read independently of the first memoir. But I found it very worthwhile, even helpful for my own family dynamics.
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This is the memoir of a daughter of Holocaust survivors.  She and her sister grew up in a house full of secrets, which led to mental issues for the two daughters.  The life story was well written, fascinating, sad, maddening and thoroughly engrossing.  This book would make an excellent book club selection.  I think most people will find it as interesting as I did.
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According to the science of epigenetics, the environment in which a person lives can affect the DNA of subsequent generations. The Escape Artist shows how this works. Fremont's parents are Holocaust survivors, and Helen and her sister are both scarred by the experience. They grow up in secrecy, in a remarkably dysfunctional household, and spend their lives hating and loving one another, connecting and reconnecting with one another. Their parents are distant, but they try to do the right things, even though they aren't always up to it. It's a remarkably sad and disturbing story that underscores the sorrow that awaits the children of war, such as those now detained at the American/Mexican border. The damage does not die when the war veterans do—their children carry it on unknowingly. I did not necessary enjoy this book—it felt far too disjointed for me. But I can see that is Fremont's point—she shows how this happens, and throws us into the chaos she lived. I'd have liked a clearer story arc, more time in the present, a bit more analysis of how either sister could now be a functioning adult. But that is not the book Fremont wrote. This was not an enjoyable read, but it was an educational and thoughtful one. I applaud Fremont for her honesty in facing her family's demons. I have no idea how you move through a life like this, let alone write about it.
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I love interesting memoirs and this one is wonderful.  I especially enjoyed the psychological aspects of Fremont's story and her writing style.
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This book was an emotional journey of a family built on deception and deceit.  Lara and Helen both suffered as a result of family secrets.  Told from Helen’s point of view, I could feel her disappointments in her quest to gain her parent’s approval throughout her entire life.
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The Escape Artist

After giving myself a day or two to decompress upon completing The Escape Artist, I dethroned Education on the top of my Goodreads/Listopia of Memoirs that are better than fiction.  

Helen Fremont’s parents were Holocaust survivors, living through the absolute unimaginable. Her father had a physical limitation resulting from the abuse he endured and regularly suffered from night terrors. Her mother was would often lament that she wished she had died in the camps, and it seemed the only thing that brought her solace was daily correspondence and periodic visits with her sister, who lived in Italy. 

 Helen’s older sister, Lara, was mentally ill and physically, verbally, and psychologically abusive to Helen. The household revolved around Lara’s state-of-mind, and rather than protecting Helen from the abuse, the attention and focus went to pacifying Lara. The family bonded together in keeping their turmoil to themselves. Helen thought that the secrets they were hiding were about Lara’s mental illness and the abuse she meted out but later discovered her parents had been lying and keeping secrets from the girls too. 

The abuse and insanity Helen endured and concealed took a toll on her emotional stability. She suffered bouts of depression, eating disorders, and suicidal ideations. She struggled with her sexual identity. Both Lara and Helen were extremely bright, one on track to become a doctor and the other a lawyer. When Lara wasn’t forcefully pushing Helen away, they were the best of friends, and enjoyed hiking and running together, and bonding over their suicidal thoughts. 

Sisterhood, lies, and an inability to break a disastrous cycle were significant themes in the book. Unfortunately for Helen, the cycle comes to an abrupt halt when Helen’s father dies. She thought they were in a healing phase, only to discover her father amended his will to erase her from their lives. Worse yet, her mother facilitated the act, and her sister was likely complicit, although neither uttered a word during the funeral and weeks following.  Helen’s pain and confusion are palpable and now live inside me.

The Escape Artist is Helen’s second biography, and I’ve added After Long Silence to my TBR pile. Thank you, Helen Fremont, for sharing your harrowing story, and NetGalley and Gallery Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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On page 222, Helen declares  to sister Lara: “Our family is a disaster. The Holocaust didn’t just affect mom and dad; it affected all of us!”

While every family has its own modicum of dysfunction, this family had more than their share. There were times  when things seem ordinary and well adjusted. No one outside truly knows what happens behind closed doors. Still, the family was  knit together by love or something like that

The Escape Artist, Helen Fremont comes after the publication of her first memoir entitled, After Long Silence. then, The Escape Artist defines her family and their reactions to the writing and publicising the family secrets. 

I wasn’t aware there was a first book until I read this one and it does work as a stand-alone, although I do plan to read her prequel. As I read the words in the book, seemed the author herself was attempting  to make sense of her life by putting it in writing. this must have been a huge outlet for Helen. 

As the book opens, you learn the ending of the story where Helen’s mother legally   “kills”  her off like a character simply  written out of a series and then  listed as having predeceased her father in a codicil to his will. 

if you wish to read a happy story, put this one down. If you wish to read a raw account of life as it happens, this book is fascinating. 

Lara and Helen are about my age now and I’d love to know how their lives are progressing. I was happy they found partners to marry and wish them great happiness, they deserve.
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An engaging memoir that details the author's life from childhood through adulthood, including the point at which she finds herself being declared "dead" in a codicil of her father's will after his death. The family relationships, at least as she remembers them, are fraught with such a mixture of feelings and confusion as to what to expect next. Her parents were survivors of World War II and for the most part chose to reveal very little to their daughters. But the secrets they kept were far more complicated and powerful than the author and her sister knew until much, much later. The book also deals with the author's slow realization of her sexual orientation and while that is not the main focus of the book it does showcase a relatable experience that readers will recognize. It was a quick read because I couldn't believe how the family acted and I wanted to keep going to find out what happened next. While most people will be able to relate to the way families try to keep some things secret or private about their lives and present a certain image to the world, this particular family was hiding some much bigger things than most.
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Helen Fremont has written a vivid, moving memoir of her life as the daughter of two Holocaust survivors who live with the secrets and horrors of their past.  Helen and her sister Lara are embroiled in a fierce, mostly adversarial relationship, and they continue the secretive family tradition throughout their childhoods and early adulthoods.
Helen also has a secret about her sexuality which complicates her life and her family interactions.  Great read!
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Promo for The Escape Artist compares it to The Glass Castle, which is a total mistake as The Escape Artist lacks the power and style of The Glass Castle. It's another dysfunction junction memoir, and it isn't bad, but comparing it to The Glass Castle left me expecting more.
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