Sheryl Sorrentino

Not My Abusive Father

November 30, 2016

This isn’t a blog about resisting Trump. Pundits far more courageous and activist than I have been blogging abundantly about that topic—and I hope they continue to do so. Like many people, I have been experiencing unrelenting anxiety anticipating Trump’s impending inauguration. And let’s not kid ourselves: Despite wishful thinking (and a glimmer of hope) about recounts, electoral college rebels, and inevitable impeachments, we must all steel ourselves for the fact that Trump will—in all likelihood—be sworn in as our 45th president come January, and will serve as such for some or all of the next four (or more) years.

We have had bad presidents before—presidents whose positions, politics, and policies we vehemently disagreed with. Trump, however, has broken the mold. I have come to realize that Trump—with his erratic temperament, narcissism, misogyny, xenophobia and racism, to name a few of his qualities—possesses many hallmark characteristics of an abusive father. Minus the billions, my own dad (may he rest in peace) was just like him,right down to the bad comb-over. So I know what I am talking about. This would explain why I—and so many otherwise rational Americans—have a case of PTSD as a result of Trump’s unorthodox campaign and roller-coaster transition. Come January 2017, to the shock and horror of progressive Americans, a rude, offensive, obnoxious, malevolent autocrat will take the reins of our nation. We, his passel of neglected adult children, feel justifiably insecure and terrified.

Think about it: Our President is the nation’s father, for a time. The words “patriot,” “patriotic” and “patriotism” all have the root “pater,” meaning “father.” Indeed, for four to eight years, our president heads our national household. He makes executive decisions for our collective greater good (we hope). He calms the nation when things go awry or when we feel scared or threatened. And he goes out into the world to promote our best global interests. A good president, like a good father, will instill in his American “family” a sense of security, trust, and optimism. Obama did it, and did it well. Even George W. Bush did it, in his own goofy, idiotic way. And while we may not trust everything our president does or believe everything he says, we trust and rely on him to be on top of his game, to take care of our collective business, and to pretty much leave us alone so we can live our lives and he can go about his. That is the pact we make—at a minimum—with our highest elected official, our presidential father.

No sexism is intended here. Had Hillary Clinton won the election (which, technically, she did), I think she would have made a more than decent head of household. Trump, however, leaves us wanting on all of the above counts. Instead of rendering sound, sensible decisions, Trump is inconsistent and wishy-washy. Instead of calming his bickering “family” in this time of great strife, Trump has his “favorites” whom he rouses and pits against the “black sheep,” whom he threatens and terrorizes. And out in the world, he’s like the drunken dad who has to be yanked from his favorite watering hole each night at closing time (think of Trump’s irrational Tweets at 3:00 a.m. and his self-dealing powwows with world leaders).

Sure, we’re all old enough to understand that Dad has “issues” and insecurities that make him behave this way. We’ll do what we can to protect ourselves; we’ll roll our eyes and ignore him a lot. We’ll fight back when necessary and ultimately leave his toxic household behind as soon as we can. Still, we’re not so mature as a nation that the experience won’t leave us permanently scarred. Like an abusive father, Trump’s behavior has already fostered deep resentment and will undoubtedly cause us long-term psychic harm. Like my actual abusive father, Trump is a man who never matured beyond the age of three. And like a three-year-old, his tantrums, rants, and demands are manipulative, aggressive, and exhausting. Like a toddler, he needs to be controlled, distracted, and constantly reassured and redirected so that our family might continue to survive.

Who knows how power plays and petty alliances work in Washington, D.C., but let us hope there are a few good “aunties” and “uncles” over there willing to step up and be our surrogate parents while our new daddy has his never-ending hissy fit. But notwithstanding those “foster parents” in Congress, we’re also going to need an outside support group—let’s call it “Al-Amer” (and no, Donald, we’re not a terrorist organization). Let’s check in daily to support and sustain one another. Abusive leaders make everyone in their orbit feel crazy and shaken. But let us never forget that we are the future of this family, not him. There are millions of like-minded and right-thinking Americans who must now enter recovery. Let’s take it one day at a time—together and in solidarity.

I’ll start: Hello. My name is Sheryl (actually, it’s Myra), and I’m an American. I’m the child of a broken government. My country just elected an abusive presidential father, and I’m dreading the next four years. How about you?


“Trolls” on Goodreads?

October 15, 2016

Who are these faceless, photo-less “members” who have seemingly joined Goodreads for the sole purpose of panning books with one- and two-star ratings? I've been slogging along at this writing game for over five years now, with five titles on Goodreads and another in the works. Lately, I’ve begun seeing new rankings popping up on my Goodreads pages almost daily.

At first, I was excited. I thought, “Maybe I’ve finally broken through! Maybe people are finally starting to notice my stuff!” Except those rankings have mostly been one and two stars, deflating my standing (along with my ego) like a free-falling hot air balloon.

Coincidentally, I have also begun receiving frequent Google alerts notifying me that my books are now available on various free download sites, such as, and Although my first reaction was indignity at having my work pilfered without my consent, I tried to look on the bright side: Why quibble with blatant copyright violation if unauthorized free downloads might give me worldwide exposure? And yet, how can I not wonder whether the “filch sites” and the anonymous Goodreads pans are connected?

Curious, I checked out the profiles of my latest detractors. They are from India, Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates; they just became Goodreads members in the past month or two. Tellingly, many (if not most) of their rankings are scathing one and two stars across the board. These literary gnomes can’t be bothered leaving a review actually stating what they had against any particular book. In one interesting case, a U.S. “reader” gave one star to nearly all of the 2,379 books he claims to have read—more than forty in September 2016 alone! Why read so many books if you don’t like any of them? And why partake so fervently on Goodreads if you have nothing positive to contribute?

In this writer’s opinion, since Amazon took over Goodreads, virtual silverfish are increasingly feeding off this once vibrant bookworms’ gathering spot, yet Goodreads remains unperturbed. When I notified Goodreads of what I believed to be wrongful activity, this is the response I got:

“It is not our policy to remove ratings posted by our members except in extreme circumstances.  We also don't have a requirement that members maintain a minimum average rating, as everyone uses the rating system differently.  Given this, we aren't able to remove ratings for being one-star alone, and we also aren't able to remove accounts simply because of their low ratings.”

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of internet “trolls” who don’t love books nearly as much as they relish damaging authors for sport.  While I suspect my hecklers have never so much as cracked open any of my books (and might not even be real people), I’ll humbly admit to “sour grapes” over the flightiness of online forums. After all, naysayers come with the territory, and I have no solid proof of wrongdoing. Like so much in life, it boils down to accepting the good with the bad. Authors beware: In addition to a few inevitable low rankings, we must now thicken our skins against the nefarious slings and arrows of marauding trolls on Goodreads.


The People vs. Greed

July 17, 2016
The People vs. GreedThe People vs. Greed by Joseph W. Cotchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The People vs. Greed is a difficult read, both in the sense that it will turn your stomach, and in the sense that it is a well-researched, “lawyerly” tome that is laden with facts and hard evidence. Like a crime scene photo in a criminal trial, it is ugly to look at but impossible (and immoral) to turn away from. This book contains few, if any, “fluffy” vignettes that so typify today’s nonfiction. Rather than being “dumbed-down” to maximize sales to undereducated/oversaturated readers, Mr. Cotchett lays out all the cold, hard facts in an intelligent and unapologetic manner.

Joseph W. Cotchett, a California “Super Lawyer” (see, pulls no punches exposing the systemic greed, corruption and theft that affect our daily lives, from our “bought” electorate to our tainted food supply. Other chapters cover health care fraud, Wall Street thuggery, the theft and misappropriation of our tax dollars, climate change/denial, Big Pharma, Big Oil, defense (mis)spending, the erosion of our privacy, and the lawyers who make all of the above possible. It is all rather dispiriting and overwhelming. And yet, if you care at all about the current state—and more importantly the future—of our nation and world, you must read this, cover to cover. Just as attorneys have to suffer through mandatory continuing education each year to keep our law licenses, readers should think of this book as mandatory continuing education for U.S. citizenship and global residency. In fact, The People vs. Greed should be required reading in every high school civics class (if there is such a thing) and citizenship application. It should be mailed to every registered voter in those awful voter information packets and handed out at every City Hall, DMV and other government office throughout the country. According to the author’s acknowledgments, all royalties from The People vs. Greed are donated to various nonprofit groups. So you can and should purchase this book with a noble conscience.

If I could add my own subjective observations/suggestions for improvement for a second edition (and yes, go off on a bit of a tangent), they would be these:

• Include the vaccine debate in the chapter on Big Pharma greed. This merits a book unto itself, but many respectable studies have questioned the efficacy of vaccines and documented the increased potential for serious side effects from our rigorous early-childhood vaccination schedule. The United States has the highest number of mandated vaccines for children under five in the world (36, double the Western world average of 18), the highest autism rate in the world (1 in 150 children, 10 times or more the rate of some other Western countries), but only places 34th in the world for childhood mortality in children under five. (See Big Pharma’s influence on the CDC is now indisputable, as revealed by the documentary Vaxxed. Whether you believe that there is a connection between the childhood MMR vaccine and autism, whether you happily accept the CDC’s “fast tracking” of the Gardasil “vaccine” for Merck’s benefit, the fact remains that vaccinations are huge business and are given quite the “free pass” in this country, unlike in the rest of the developed world (see, e.g., A National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (“Vaccine Court”) was set up in 1986 to grant immunity—no pun intended—to vaccine manufacturers in favor of a government reimbursement program for families whose children had serious side effects from vaccines. It has since awarded nearly $2 billion on 2,398 claims. Although this seems like an astounding figure, I am sure it is far less than jury verdicts would have been if class-action litigators like Mr. Cotchett had been allowed to pursue vaccine manufacturers directly on behalf of injured children. The CDC—a supposedly independent watchdog agency—accepts millions of dollars in gifts and funding from the pharmaceutical industry, and the former CDC director (Julie Gerberding) is now the head of Merck’s vaccine unit, among other high-profile, revolving-door conflicts of interest between Big Pharma and the public agencies tasked with regulating them (see

• Address the for-profit prison-industrial complex and the attendant racism that makes America the #1 jailer in the world per capita. According to Wikipedia, in October 2013, “the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world's population, it houses around 22 percent of the world's prisoners.” ( It is no coincidence that most of our human “prison inventory” consists of black and brown bodies. Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. This is U.S. greed and racism at its ugliest.

• Now that we have all this awful information, offer suggestions as to what your average citizen can do. Vote? I vote in all major elections and many minor ones; I take the time to read the confounding and often thick voter booklets, Google the major issues, etc. But what good does any of that do if the people we vote for are greedy, dishonest, and in the pockets of our real leaders, corporate America? No wonder so many of us feel powerless and disgruntled. Even those politicians who start out somewhat well-intentioned are quickly spoiled like fruit left to rot in a bowl. Are term limits the answer? Perhaps. More regulation of big business? Perhaps. Frankly, I’d like to see our elected “leaders” doing the jobs we pay them to do and enforcing the laws we already have. Beyond that, we need a major overhaul of our political system to remove money from politics (let’s not hold our collective breath) and implement legal and financial restraints on big business to protect citizens from runaway Capitalism. I, like many of my fellow citizens, am at an utter loss as to what power we individually wield to avert the total and inevitable collapse of our nation—if not our planet—when we are up against these untouchable, unstoppable, and largely invisible forces.

Although by all rational inference we seem doomed as a nation and a species, we are fortunate to have a few renegades like Joseph Cotchett to afford a glimmer of hope. Although Mr. Cotchett paints a bleak picture of the good old U.S. of A., he (and many other trial lawyers, I am sure) have dedicated their lives and careers to righting wrongs and plugging for the underdog. Yes, there is still faint hope that David can ultimately triumph against the Goliath of our American oligarchy. It has happened before and can happen again if “We the People” unite and make our voices heard. Politicians too often rouse our fear and hatred, in order to divide and manipulate us. The People vs. Greed exposes the bigger picture at play—the rampant greed and corruption throughout our government and major industries. We have essentially exonerated our leaders from all accountability, like neglectful parents unleashing their teenagers on their communities with a fat trust fund, unlimited cocaine, a hot rod with a full tank, and no curfew.

There is much in this book we can agree on. Let’s put our collective differences aside, gain control over our electorate, and band together for the greater good of our country. Thank you, Mr. Cotchett, for this informative, important, and timely work.

View all my reviews

The Daddy Diaries

January 10, 2016
The Daddy DiariesThe Daddy Diaries by Joshua Braff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d give The Daddy Diaries a solid 3.75. If you’re familiar with the Australian TV series House Husbands, Joshua Braff’s "take" on the subject could easily become the U.S. adaptation.

What I liked: The tender scenes between diarist Jay and his depressed son, Alex. The fact that the economic role reversal between Jay and wife Jackie is not a source of friction—Jay is secure enough in his manhood to appreciate his wife for who she is and what she brings to their family. He supports her work (which entails a good amount of travel) by functioning as the dedicated stay-at-home dad. I also found it a nice—as well as realistic—touch that Jay, as primary parent, is not so keen on the idea of making a third child, despite his wife’s claim that “someone is missing from their dinner table.” Finally, DD posits an arguable social angle about parents’ vs. children’s rights when it’s not in the best interests of a minor child to live with her parents or follow their misguided mandates.

Not so Much: I found the character development to be somewhat flimsy. I would have liked to see the author focus more on the multiple causes of Alex’s depression (teenage “angst”/family history/the move to Florida, etc.) and less on the St. Petersburg “parental party scene.” Alex’s mental health and the parent/teen relationship are the grounding notes of this story, and are far more compelling than the numerous instances (and there are too many of them) where Jay “falls victim” to impromptu partying and drinking. In my world, responsible parents don’t run off to bars at the slightest twist of an arm—especially when, for all intents and purposes, they are functioning as single parent. Childhood friends and siblings don’t just “pop up” unannounced from several states’ distance and demand that you go out drinking with them. Rich divorcees don’t spontaneously open their homes to scores of parents and kids for flirtatious poolside antics. Maybe that’s the way they do things down in Florida, but personally, Jay’s vulnerability to such distractions lowered my respect for him.

That said, The Daddy Diaries is a book you have to finish to fully appreciate. The funniest scenes are in the first third, and the most emotionally-charged ones appear toward the end. My daughter gave me this book for Christmas figuring I would like it, and she was right. All in all, it's a sensitive and worthwhile family drama by a fellow independent Bay Area author.

View all my reviews

The Two-Family House

December 28, 2015
The Two-Family HouseThe Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Two-Family House is an engaging, quick read I could not put down. My own mother and aunt and their two husbands lived in a similar setup in Brooklyn in the 1950s. After my parents moved to Queens, Long Island in 1958 to raise their growing family, we visited the two-family Brooklyn house each Christmas when I was a young child. There I witnessed an easy, open flow of activity and communication between my aunt’s and cousin’s respective families living upstairs and downstairs.

Such was the nature of things between sisters-in-law and best friends Ruth and Helen—married to brothers Mort and Abe—until that fateful night when they gave birth simultaneously during “The Great Blizzard of 1947” (an historical storm that dumped over 25 inches of snow on New York City in less than 24 hours). Okay, I realize it’s a hoaky and unrealistic premise, but it is a necessary “suspension of disbelief” if we are to accept what transpires next: Mort and Ruth have only daughters, and Mort is gruff and resentful because he longs for a son. Conveniently, Abe and Helen have only sons. One of the women gives birth to another girl; the other, a boy—you see where this is going. The “Christmas-esque” birth-in-a-blizzard provides the obvious yet totally far-fetched foundation of this story. We, as readers, "go along" in order to experience how each of the characters implodes under the weight of the women's secret.

Speaking of characters, even knowing the unspoken “spoiler” from go (it’s not difficult to figure out), Ruth is so perplexing, odious, and incomprehensible, she is perhaps the most fascinating of the lot. Mort can be flat and one-dimensional, whereas Helen and Abe are angelic to a fault. The four of them comprise a kitschy Motley crew. As for their collective brood of nine, other than Judith, Teddy and Natalie (who are the focal point at the child level), I couldn’t keep the offspring straight. When the author introduces in-laws Sol and Arlene and their son, Johnny (on Helen’s side) and Aunt Faye (on Ruth’s), I thought my head would explode—and that was before the kids grow up and start to marry, resulting in even more spouses and in-laws to keep track of. But the many well-paced ups and downs, spats and snubs, and one huge tragedy along the way glue the whole thing together and kept me hooked from beginning to end.

My only other observation is the running monologue. Though the story ostensibly shifts point-of-view with each new chapter (as indicated by the chapter titles), this is a rather “tell-y” affair whose “voices” seem to blur into a single narrative by an all-knowing storyteller. It can become confusing at times—like the chapter where Abe tells what his wife, Helen, is smelling in the back seat of the car. I don’t know whether this was meant as a form of literary stylization or if the story needs further editing. Either way, despite this shortcoming, The Two-Family House “works” in a delightfully campy way that never falls flat or loses momentum.

Thank you to NetGalley for sending me the egalley version for review.

View all my reviews

Run Reader, Run

December 20, 2015

Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My FamilyRun, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family by David Berg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A murder in any family is “tell-worthy,” so you would think the story someone’s of brother being murdered would be especially so. Alan Berg’s disappearance and murder were indeed gut-wrenching to read about. However, while Run Brother, Run starts off tender and funny and engaging—full of quirky characters and ethnic “heart,” as it were, what promises at the outset to be an intimate “tell” of one family’s tragedy quickly devolves into something tedious and lackluster, spiraling into an Enquirer-esque replay of he said/she saids and “who’s zoomin’ who?”

Clearly, this book is more about the author than the murder. As The Buffalo News points out (in a review by Lee Coppola), “Run reads more like a memoir of David Berg than a memoir about a death in his family.” I couldn’t agree more. (See We spend a lot of time with David Berg over the course of these 354 pages, and to say he thinks highly of himself would be an understatement. Page after page is devoted to the author regaling us with his legal acumen. When not recounting his sometimes winding (but momentous, according to him) career trajectory as a trial lawyer, the author informs us about all sorts of shady secondary players in his family’s carpet business, most of them irrelevant to Alan Berg’s murder but seemingly included either to confuse the reader or prove that Alan Berg really was a good guy by comparison.

And yet, none of the three main characters (David Berg, his brother Alan, or their father) is especially deserving of our sympathies. The whole “we got into medical school but couldn’t/didn’t go” angle seems intended to prove that these guys really are smart and respectable, even as the whole lot of them cheat their customers (mostly poor Black folks) and rub elbows with shady types (gamblers, scammers and so forth). I hate to say it, but I found it hard to feel too sorry for the victim, a supposedly happily married father of two who, on the strength of a phone call by a woman proffering a blow job, had no qualms about running off to meet her, thereby walking straight into his murderer’s trap. Of course, Alan Berg did not deserve to be killed, and the Berg family has my utmost sympathy for their loss. But as my father always said, “When you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.” That worn adage seems fitting here.

David Berg also spends a good deal of time justifying his grudge against his father. He blames the elder Mr. Berg for causing Alan’s murder by bad-mouthing one of their former salesmen (an aggressive hothead) after he had been warned by his sons to stop. Frankly, I find that a rather tenuous basis for condemning one’s father in a family’s time of shared grief. Certainly no one would ordinarily foresee that a petty dispute would lead to a son’s murder. Though I understand that in families we harbor all sorts of resentments—both logical and illogical, David Berg presents his myopic version of people and events as Holy Truth.

The straw that broke this weary reader’s back came toward the end of the book, when David Berg recounts how, in preparation for writing this story, he interviewed the bungling (according to him) prosecutor at his brother’s murder trial. At that get-together, Berg graciously and reassuringly accepts the man’s apology, but then proceeds to slam the prosecutor play-by-play for his mishandling of the trial. This very public professional assault struck me as dishonorable, especially when, as the The Buffalo News aptly notes, “Berg . . . was too busy getting his law practice off the ground to attend the trial he recounts in detail.”

I suspect the main reason this book got published was the fact that the murderer was Woody Harrelson’s father, affording the whole grubby affair the potential to sell books. Indeed, the thing that sticks with me most about this story is Woody Harrelson’s sketchy family history, of which I was previously unaware. In “A Conversation with David Berg” on the author’s website, Berg faults Woody Harrelson for “capitalizing on his father’s past [by playing] a murderous character in Natural Born Killers, a movie about a killer heroized by the press.” I daresay David Berg uses Run Brother, Run as his platform to do essentially the same thing.

View all my reviews

What Makes a "Good Father"?

October 24, 2015
The Good FatherThe Good Father by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I’m not sure whether it merits four or five stars, but only because it isn’t a great work of literature. The writing is fairly simple. But after abandoning Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend after 222 pages (of 658!), “great literature” wasn’t what I was looking for. The Good Father proves that not every tale must be told with brilliant prose in order to be great.

And make no mistake, The Good Father is one heck of a story! Actually, it deftly interweaves three different but related and equally compelling subplots. Each of the three characters (Travis, Robin and Erin) has absorbed his or her own share of tragedy, and consequently is about as touching as any fictional character can be. In a plainspoken, almost simplistic way, The Good Father shows us what anyone might be capable of under desperate circumstances—in other words, what it means to be human. We all like to think, “Oh, I would never do that.” But you never know until you are faced with the situation—whether it be lack of money, a life-or-death health condition, or the devastating loss of a child. The Good Father does a beautiful job of showing how these three ordinarily people flounder and nearly fall when life seemingly turns against them.

There were moments when I feared Ms. Chamberlain might veer into tired and trite territory, but thankfully she never does. Rather, The Good Father offers tried-and-true reminders about class and status, grief and healing, and the essence of enduring love. It’s a sweet yet gripping book that I couldn’t put down and highly recommend.

View all my reviews

Six Stars to "The Rest of Her Life"

September 4, 2015
The Rest of Her LifeThe Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From practically the opening page, this story was intense, emotional and gripping. The Rest of Her Life shows us how, from one minute to the next, one error in judgment—a teeny, tiny moment of inattention—can profoundly alter so many lives forever. I found both the plot and characters to be intelligent, moving, and utterly convincing.

Distracted by a stray dog, eighteen-year-old Kara Churchill accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian in a crosswalk while driving her parents’ Suburban SUV. The victim, Bethany Cleese, is a fellow neighborhood teen being raised by a single mom. One beloved young life is irretrievably lost, but many, many others are deeply affected. Although Kara’s punishment will likely be light (a reckless driving charge), Kara is hell-bent on punishing herself to the max. She withdraws, stops eating, and sinks into a deep depression while her father tries to do “damage control.” Gary Churchill orders the family not to talk to anyone—not even their closest friends, mother-daughter duo Eva (the town gossip) and Kara’s best friend, Willow. Gary’s all about lawyers, insurance, and making sure Kara avoids jail and starts college in the fall on schedule as if nothing happened.

Kara’s mom, Leigh (from whose point of view this story is told) processes the tragedy quite differently. She becomes obsessed with Bethany’s mother, Diane, and grows increasingly desperate to finagle Diane’s forgiveness even as the dents in her own relationship with Kara become all-the-more evident under the weight of her family’s sudden misfortune. To Leigh, Kara’s carelessness offers proof to the entire small town of Danby, Kansas that she has failed as a mother. She is reminded of something Jackie Kennedy once said: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” Damning herself, Leigh concludes that “despite her best intentions, apparently, she’d somehow bungled raising her daughter. Now that Kara had bungled too, it was true—nothing else seemed to matter.”

Although on the surface, The Rest of Her Life is about a fatal accident, Leigh’s realization about her maternal inadequacy is what gives this story its beating heart. As the narrative progresses, we slowly learn why Leigh has had such a difficult time with motherhood: She was abandoned by her own mother as a 16-year-old, left to live in a trailer with her hapless if kind-hearted older sister (herself a young single mom), and basically had to grope her way through life in order to become a teacher and form a stable family as an adult.

The Rest of Her Life reveals just how difficult it is to parent a child when one has had defective (or no) parenting herself. Understanding intellectually that her mom did the best she could given how she was raised did little to heal Leigh’s festering emotional wounds. Even though Leigh could dance circles around her own self-absorbed, clueless mother, she has difficulty connecting with others—including her own family, and slowly comes to realize that, despite her best efforts to be a different sort of parent than her mom, her own daughter simply doesn’t like her. At this crucial time when she most wants to comfort and connect with Kara, she is blocked at every turn. Stomach-clenching scenes are abundant throughout this novel, but  the clumsy mother-daughter encounters are perhaps the most heartbreaking  in their authenticity; they certainly struck a nerve with me.

A well-rounded cast of nuanced secondary characters—including younger son Justin; sister Pam; Eva and her daughter, Willow; Cynthia Tork (the book-censoring mom of one of Leigh’s students); and especially Bethany’s mom, Diane—pepper this already compelling tale with thorny complexity as Leigh grapples with her day-to-day connections and commitments. After all, no matter the pain we might be suffering inside, life marches on all around us.

Though I am perhaps in the minority in finding Laura Moriarty's novel to be the rare gem that left me emotionally spellbound, in this reader's humble opinion, The Rest of Her Life is a truly extraordinary book deserving of five stars. I would give it six if I could.

View all my reviews

Orange is the New Black

July 26, 2015
I’ve become hooked on the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black. What a coup for Piper Kerman (author of the book by the same name)! I wish one of my books would get turned into a TV series. But seriously, unless someone you know is in prison, who even thinks about inmates or correctional institutions? The disenfranchised are tidily tucked away from view; we have no idea what goes on in such places, nor do we care. For raising our “corrections consciousness,” I give props to Orange is the New Black.

ONB pulls no punches in shedding light on the day-to-day lives of women in a minimum-security federal facility. Found guilty of mostly nonviolent offenses like drug dealing, theft or credit card fraud, these female inmates are humanized with equal doses of soap-opera intrigue, same-sex hanky-panky, and poignant interpersonal moments. But should we really feel empathy for these fictional characters? Shouldn’t we want the real psychopaths and sociopaths among us to be warehoused somewhere far away so we never have to cross paths with them? Even those guilty of lesser crimes—like fraud or embezzlement—need to be kept from our midst so they do not cause us financial harm. If such miscreants are being treated harshly behind bars, well, that’s part of their punishment, right?

Law-abiding citizens become justifiably offended when we learn that prisoners, especially the “lifers” who have committed murder or other heinous crimes, are given TV, cooking and other recreational privileges. After all, prison isn’t supposed to be a taxpayer-funded, lifetime resort. But that’s only one side of the story. And because prisons’ operations—and in particular, the living conditions behind prison walls—is not typically revealed to the public eye, no other side ever gets told.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, the United States has the largest prison population in the world, ahead of both Russia and South Africa (* We also have the second-highest per-capita incarceration rate, behind Seychelles (a 115-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean that is part of the African Union). Given that the U.S. holds these shameful distinctions, isn’t it time we take a closer look at the law-enforcement policies (notably “three strikes” and the “war on drugs”) that brought us here? These policies have reduced or eliminated judges’ sentencing discretion and lengthened the average prison stay, with the unintended (or perhaps intended) consequence of making the U.S. the world leader in incarcerating its citizens and earning the prison industry a profitable slice of our Capitalist pie.

In season three of ONB, the fictional Litchfield Prison, on the verge of closure, is taken over by a private corporation. This isn't as far-fetched a proposition as you might think. Prisons have indeed become big business—see As these two articles reveal, the trend is clearly toward prison privatization, and two major companies (Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group) have a neat little monopoly on this burgeoning “industry.” The U.S. prison–industrial complex has supported the rapid expansion of our inmate population due not only to the political influence of these private prison companies but also the myriad businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies (e.g., construction companies; surveillance technology vendors; prison food services; medical facilities providers; and corporations that contract for prison labor). It would therefore be naïve to assume that profit plays no role in determining the fate of minor offenders—i.e., whether or not they are sent away to prison, and for how long.

We all know (or should know) that the criminal justice system is far from color blind. We should be doubly offended when our incarceration system is being privatized and profit-driven. When the goal of prisons is not public safety or—heaven forbid—rehabilitation, but rather increasing the number of warm bodies needed to sustain a growth industry, the matter becomes one of human conscience; we cannot and should not turn a blind eye.

I believe that, as a society, we have an obligation to consider the “spiritual correctness” of the public policies we implement. The incarceration of criminals should have as its primary goals public safety and—whenever possible—rehabilitation and reintegration back into society. The desire for retribution and vengeance, while understandable as human emotions, are far less defensible from a spiritual standpoint. But by far the most loathsome policy objective is to make money off crime and punishment. A profit motive should have no place in the business of housing criminal offenders.

Ordinary Americans should feel ashamed and alarmed that our criminal justice system has earned us the honor of world incarceration leader, while at the same time making prison a growth industry. Orange is the New Black invites viewers to give a crap about society’s cast-offs. Someday, that loser behind the plexiglass might be your son, daughter, sister, brother, niece, nephew or friend. It could even be you.

*According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,266,800 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons and county jails at year-end 2011—nearly 1% the adult U.S. resident population, not counting the 4,814,200 adults on probation or on parole or the 70,792 juveniles in juvenile detention. In total, 6,977,700 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2011 – about 2.9% of adults in the U.S. resident population.

A Note of Thanks from a Pedi-phile

June 21, 2015
What is it about having a pedicure that is so darned special? For a pittance ($20 or so), I can sit in a relaxing massage chair with my feet in deliciously warm water while someone else (alas, always a petite Asian lady) rubs and scrubs, pampers and paints. At the end, my tootsies look mahvelous and I feel like a new woman.

There are nail places on practically every block in most major cities, so evidently it’s a profitable business with seemingly endless demand. Apparently, I am not alone in my love for this simple, inexpensive indulgence. Like most women, I have my favorite spot, and the pedicurists there don’t speak much English. Though I thank them afterward and tip well, isn’t there something disconcerting about paying a stranger with whom I can barely communicate to squat on a short stool cleaning my hooves while I read a book or check email during an otherwise hectic workday? Isn’t it one of those debasing jobs that should be outlawed?

Be that as it may, this is my long-overdue tribute to the hard-working, detail-oriented ladies who make me feel great for a brief while. Sure, there are snarky ones who hate their jobs and talk trash about customers in a foreign tongue (avoid those shops!). But my gals at Sassy Nails are anything but—always friendly, always giving off good vibes and always doing a fine job no matter how busy the salon on any given day.

Indeed, there is something restorative about having one’s hard-working, underappreciated appendages tended to by a fellow human—something very nearly sanctified about it. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary (, “in the ancient world with unpaved roads, feet easily became dirty and had to be washed often. From earliest times, hosts offered to wash their guests' feet (Genesis 18:4 ), and this was usually done by the lowest servant (John 13:3-14 ).” Nevertheless, according to another Bible-study website (, “we need continual cleansing from the effects of living in the flesh in a sin-cursed world” (so true!). Several Bible passages make it a high honor to “anoint” another's feet (Deuteronomy 33:24; Luke 7:46; John 12:3).

While I don’t elevate my pedi to divine proportions, and I typically don’t quote from the Bible, I’m nevertheless thankful for freshly-scrubbed feet sporting ten perfectly-painted talons (this month, attention-grabbing neon-orange!). It serves as one small but significant reminder of all the blessings I enjoy in my mostly stressful life.

Sheryl Sorrentino: Real Fiction for Real Women™

Sheryl Sorrentino is a practicing attorney by day who unexpectedly discovered her passion for writing after learning of a long-deceased half-brother in 2007. She is the author of five novels (Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz; An Unexpected Exile; The Floater; Stage Daughter and Stop & Frisk) with a sixth (Smarter Than That) slated for release Spring of 2017. She lives with her husband and teenage daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can learn more about Sheryl Sorrentino by visiting her Facebook page at!/pages/Sheryl-Sorrentino/249323025094995. Follow Sheryl on Twitter at @SherylSorrentin.