Synopses & Reviews
andlt;iandgt;and#8220;Excuse me lady, do you have any spare change? I am hungry.and#8221;andlt;/iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;When I heard him, I didnand#8217;t really hear him. His words were part of the clatter, like a car horn or someone yelling for a cab. They were, you could say, just noiseand#8212;the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I walked right by him, as if he wasnand#8217;t there. andlt;/iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;But then, just a few yards past him, I stopped. andlt;/iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;And thenand#8212;and Iand#8217;m still not sure why I did thisand#8212;I came back.andlt;/iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;When Laura Schroff first met Maurice on a New York City street corner, she had no idea that she was standing on the brink of an incredible and unlikely friendship that would inevitably change both their lives. As one lunch at McDonaldand#8217;s with Maurice turns into two, then into a weekly occurrence that is fast growing into an inexplicable connection, Laura learns heart-wrenching details about Mauriceand#8217;s horrific childhood. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;The boy is stuck in something like hell. He is six years old and covered in small red bites from chinchesand#8212;bed bugsand#8212;and he is woefully skinny due to an unchecked case of ringworm. He is so hungry his stomach hurts, but then he is used to being hungry: when he was two years old the pangs got so bad he rooted through the trash and ate rat droppings. He had to have his stomach pumped. He is staying in his fatherand#8217;s cramped, filthy apartment, sleeping with stepbrothers who wet the bed, surviving in a place that smells like something died. He has not seen his mother in three months, and he doesnand#8217;t know why. His world is a world of drugs and violence and unrelenting chaos, and he has the wisdom to know, even at six, that if something does not change for him soon, he might not make it. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;/iandgt;Sprinkled throughout the book is also Lauraand#8217;s own story of her turbulent childhood. Every now and then, something about Maurice's struggles reminds her of her past, how her fatherand#8217;s alcohol-induced rages shaped the person she became and, in a way, led her to Maurice. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;He started by cursing my mother and screaming at her in front of all of us. My mother pulled us closer to her and waited for it to pass. But it didnand#8217;t. My father left the room and came back with two full liquor bottles. He threw them right over our heads, and they smashed against the wall. Liquor and glass rained down on us, and we pulled up the covers to shield ourselves. My father hurled the next bottle, and then went back for two more. They shattered just above our heads; the sound was sickening. My father kept screaming and ranting, worse than Iand#8217;d ever heard him before. When he ran out of bottles he went into the kitchen and overturned the table and smashed the chairs. Just then the phone rang, and my mother rushed to get it. I heard her screaming to the caller to get help. My father grabbed the phone from her and ripped the base right out of the wall. My mother ran back to us as my father kept kicking and throwing furniture, unstoppable, out of his mind.andlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;As their friendship grows, Laura offers Maurice simple experiences he comes to treasure: learning how to set a table, trimming a Christmas tree, visiting her nieces and nephew on Long Island, and even having homemade lunches to bring to school. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;and#8220;If you make me lunch,and#8221; he said, and#8220;will you put it in a brown paper bag?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;I didnand#8217;t really understand the question. "Okay, sure. But why do you want it in a brown paper bag?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;/iandgt;andlt;iandgt;and#8220;Because when I see kids come to school with their lunch in a brown paper bag, that means someone cares about them.and#8221; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;/iandgt;andlt;iandgt;I looked away when Maurice said that, so he wouldnand#8217;t see me tear up.andlt;/iandgt; A simple brown paper bagandlt;iandgt;, I thought.andlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;To me, it meant nothing. To him, it was everything.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;/iandgt;It is the heartwarming story of a friendship that has spanned thirty years, that brought life to an over-scheduled professional who had lost sight of family and happiness and hope to a hungry and desperate boy whose family background in drugs and crime and squalor seemed an inescapable fate. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;He had, inside of him, some miraculous reserve of goodness and strength, some fierce will to be special. I saw this in his hopeful face the day he asked for spare change, and I see it in his eyes today. Whatever made me notice him on that street corner so many years ago is clearly something that cannot be extinguished, no matter how relentless the forces aligned against it. Some may call it spirit. Some might call it heart. Whatever it was, it drew me to him, as if we were bound by some invisible, unbreakable thread.andlt;/iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;And whatever it is, it binds us still.andlt;/iandgt;
"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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Laura Schroff is a former advertising executive who has worked with several major media companies, including Time Inc. and Conde Nast. Born and raised on Long Island, Laura was part of the advertising team that made USA Today a successful national newspaper. Before helping launch three of the most successful start-ups in Time Inc. history—InStyle, Teen People, and People StyleWatch—she was also the New York Division Manager at People magazine. Laura has also been the New York Ad Manager at Ms. magazine and Associate Publisher at Brides. Laura loves spending time at her condo on Long Island and visiting with her family in New York and Florida. She lives in New York City with her feisty poodle Coco. Alex Tresniowski is a writer living and working in New York City. He has been a senior writer for People Magazine since 1998, writing numerous cover stories and focusing on human interest, crime, and sports. He is also the author of six books, including 2005’s The Vendetta, a true crime story that was purchased by Universal Pictures and used as a basis for the 2009 Johnny Depp movie Public Enemies.