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Paris, Erna.

New York, Avon Books, c1984. 228pp, paper, $3.75, ISBN 0-380-89670-2. Distributed by Avon Books Canada.

Reviewed by Glenn DiPasquale

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

Erna Paris, as well as being an experienced author, has an additional qualification for writing this book. She too is apparently a member of a stepfamily. This probably accounts, at least in part, for the great insight and understanding that comes shining through to the reader. It may also be partly responsible for the fact that this is a grim book. The writing is excellent and clear, the research and knowledge of the topic impressive, but the book's tone is serious and evokes not a single smile, save for a wry one as the reader recognizes and identifies with shared human failings. To be sure, the problems of reconstituted families are serious and sobering, but the total lack of comic relief makes this work heavy going; even for this reviewer who (the last time I checked) is still happily married.

Other than the above tirade, there is nothing negative to say about this book. Paris has produced a well-written, exceptionally well-researched work that should be read by every professional involved in counselling reconstituted families. It should also be read by couples planning to enter into a marriage involving children from previous unions. It is to be hoped, in the latter case, that these couples will seek premarital counselling, though this book might well scare a few into lifelong single parenthood.

The format of the book certainly contributes to its readability. Unlike a textbook, this work explores the topic by presenting the cases of several families that the author has interviewed. Each member of the blended family is interviewed separately and presents the family history from his/her own narrow perspective. Often, the book reads like a soap-opera, and one is pulled into the plot like a Dallas addict. At the end of each chapter, after each family member has had his/her say, the author presents a brief analysis of what went right (if anything) and what went wrong.

The author's message is clear and can no longer be ignored. Second marriages involving children are hard work; much harder than either first marriages or childless second marriages. Both counsellors and the general public have to finally get that message, and this book is sure to help. It is highly recommended, but not while you are depressed.

Glenn DiPasquale, York Region Board of Education, Newmarket, Ont.
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