"When I learn afterward of the 411, who, along with many others, perish when the towers collapse, a remarkable thing happensmy lifelong phobia [of big cities] disappears."

Stark wrote this series of vignettes and sent them to family and friends annually at Christmas over a decade. Each vignette opens with a question pertaining to a universal theme. In "Family and Friendship," the author reflects on pivotal events in his family—his first phone call to his parents after they moved into an assisted-living center, the deaths of his parents and a lifelong friend, his son's return home from Iraq, and a family vacation to Wisconsin. "Citizenship and Country" examines the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the author's phobia of big cities, and his visit to Ground Zero four months after the attacks, which instantly cured his lifelong phobia. The author also explores abortion through the lens of the U.S. Constitution. The book concludes with "Experience and Perspective," which includes a look back at the author's life as he might share it with a younger version of himself.

Each piece in this collection is lovingly, thoughtfully crafted. Stark keeps things moving with well-chosen dialogue, action, and description. Clearly the author understands the value of brevity, while he gently injects each essay with his own philosophy on life, he never belabors the point. This work offers a pleasant glimpse into the life journey of a contemporary family, although the intimacy of shared observations with loved ones hampers it from acquiring a broader appeal. Most notably, references to many persons in the book are by first-name only, with no description of their relationship to Stark. While in most situations, it's fairly easy for the reader to deduce who's who, a brief explanation of those relationships would go far in bringing into the fold those readers outside Starks' immediate sphere.

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