A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York.
When advertising executive Schroff answered a child's request for spare change by inviting him for lunch, she did not expect the encounter to grow into a friendship that would endure into his adulthood. The author recounts how she and Maurice, a promising boy from a drug-addicted family, learned to trust each other. Schroff acknowledges risks—including the possibility of her actions being misconstrued and the tension of crossing socio-economic divides—but does not dwell on the complexities of homelessness or the philosophical problems of altruism. She does not question whether public recognition is beneficial, or whether it is sufficient for the recipient to realize the extent of what has been done. With the assistance of People human-interest writer Tresniowski (Tiger Virtues, 2005, etc.), Schroff adheres to a personal narrative that traces her troubled relationship with her father, her meetings with Maurice and his background, all while avoiding direct parallels, noting that their childhoods differed in severity even if they shared similar emotional voids. With feel-good dramatizations, the story seldom transcends the message that reaching out makes a difference. It is framed in simple terms, from attributing the first meeting to "two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams" that were "somehow meant to be friends" to the conclusion that love is a driving force. Admirably, Schroff notes that she did not seek a role as a "substitute parent," and she does not judge Maurice's mother for her lifestyle. That both main figures experience a few setbacks yet eventually survive is never in question; the story fittingly concludes with an epilogue by Maurice.
For readers seeking an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter.
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According to an old Chinese proverb, there's an invisible thread that connects two people who are destined to meet and influence each other's lives. With Tresniowski (The Vendetta), Schroff tells how, as a busy advertising sales executive in New York, she easily passed panhandlers every day. One day, 11-year-old Maurice's plea for spare change caused Schroff to turn around and offer to buy him lunch. Thereafter, Schroff and Maurice met for dinner each week and slowly shared their life stories. Maurice's tales about his crack addict mother, absent father, and array of drug-dealing uncles were only part of his desperate longing for a life in a safe neighborhood in an apartment with more than one room. As they grow to depend on each other, Maurice asks Schroff to attend his school's parents' night, where his teacher asks Schroff not to abandon the boy. In some weeks, the meals they share become some of the few he has, because any money his mother might "earn" goes to her habit. As Schroff relates Maurice's story, she tells of her own father's alcoholism and abuse, and readers see how desperately these two need each other in this feel-good story about the far-reaching benefits of kindness. (Nov.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC